If you think your cat just lies around the house all day when you're gone, you're right -- partially. Sleeping is just one of a cat's favorite afternoon activities, so he fills in the rest of his busy schedule by finding ways to entertain himself.
Cats have a reputation for sleeping on the job that isn't entirely unearned. These animals love to snooze, especially during the daylight hours, since they don't instinctively hunt at midday. They aren't necessarily in a deep slumber, though. While they can spend 18 hours a day or so getting rest, they fade in and out, and often keep their eyes partially open -- hence the term "cat nap."
Even domestic cats feel a strong compulsion to hunt. They may not need to do it for food, but they'll still do it for sport. Sure, you may not like to think of your sweet little angel as a cold-blooded killer, but when you're at work, he may be stalking the neighborhood for small-game prey. It doesn't make him a bad guy, though. He's just following instinct.
If you have more than one cat, they probably spend a good portion of the day playing with each other. Cats have sharp minds and they need a little stimulation, excitement and companionship to keep themselves from getting too bored. If your cat is alone while you're at work for hours at a time, he may get a little bored -- provide him with toys and climbing areas that he can use to entertain himself while you're gone. Better still, give him a companion. When multiple cats live together, they run, play and chase, increasing the amount of exercise they get while assuaging boredom and loneliness.
Don't feel guilty if you love to crash on the couch and watch a few hours of TV every day -- your cat does basically the same thing. His TV is a window, though, and his favorite soap opera is the collection of birds, squirrels, rabbits and fallen leaves out in your yard. Cats love to cozy up in front of a window and stare through the glass for hours at a time. It isn't quite as scandalous as a good telenovela, but not all of nature's beasts have such refined taste as humans.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.