by Nomi Berger
Cat tunnels are the purr-fect way to enrich your kitty’s environment.
Why? For the simple – and obvious – reason that cats love to hide. Your particular cat may be hiding because she’s frightened or because she just wants to play. Others prefer to be tucked away while they sleep in order to feel safe or to stay warm. But whatever the reason, hiding is an essential part of a cat’s life and it’s equally essential that you provide yours with the opportunity to do so.
You can purchase fabric cat tunnels either online or at your local pet products store. They come in many different lengths and styles, depending on your budget and the size of your room(s). Some even have holes cut into the middle of them that allow your cat to poke her head through or to pop her entire body through. You can opt to make your own tunnel by using paper bags. Cut out the bottoms of the bags and tape several of them together. To increase the tunnel’s stability and prevent it from collapsing, “roll” a cuff on each end of each bag before attaching them. For tunnels with greater durability, use long boxes instead. Cats, as every cat owner knows, LOVE boxes.
Before you engage your cat in any interactive playtime, place her tunnel on the floor and one of her favorite toys on the floor outside of it. Then watch her “lie low” while she waits for the precise moment to pounce on her “prey.” Alternatively, you can put a toy inside the tunnel beforehand to pique her curiosity and interest. To keep her constructively occupied on her own, place a puzzle feeder or an especially enticing new toy inside the tunnel for her to discover and engage with, hopefully, on and off for hours.
If your cat likes being hidden when she sleeps but isn’t fond of sleeping in an enclosed bed, picture her stretched out languidly in a cat tunnel. A tunnel will keep her both hidden and ready to “pounce” should a tempting bit of “prey” (aka toys or shoes) wander past her field of vision.
If yours is a multi-cat household with a high degree of tension in it or if your single cat’s particularly timid, set down tunnels in several of your rooms. This way, any cat can walk through any room and not feel as threatened or exposed.
If you’ve recently brought a new kitty home and she’s fearful of her strange surroundings, use tunnels to help allay those fears. Place one in the middle of her “designated” room to encourage her to explore her new environment, paw step by paw step, while still feeling protected. If she’s hiding in a closet or under the bed, set down one tunnel leading to her food and water bowls and another to her litter box. To keep from spending money on multiple tunnels, consider using your homemade paper bag tunnels instead.
Tantalizingly thrilling for kittens, cat tunnels can provide them with endless entertaining possibilities as they frisk and frolic about in their expanding world. For adults who seem to have lost their appetite for playing, adding a tunnel to your playtime together may be all the incentive they need to put a new spring in their step. For seniors, geriatric cats or those with limited mobility, a tunnel allows them to be tucked cozily away without having to do more than poke out a paw from time to time to bat at a toy being teasingly dangled from the end of a wand.