Our furry felines get a bad rap for being lazy, sleeping the day away, and generally turning their noses up at most things. This is thanks to the likes of famous kitties like Garfield and Grumpy Cat. And while many cats are quite content to sit on a windowsill all day long, taking naps and watching the world go by, this doesn’t mean cats don’t need or enjoy playing games.
“What many pet parents don’t realise is that when it comes to cats, play isn’t just about fun and games. For cats in the wild, the act of play is a serious business that helps kittens learn important survival skills like stalking, chasing and trapping prey. Even if your cat never ventures outside your home, this basic instinct to hunt can remain strong, which is why it’s important to give our cats the opportunity to express this natural behaviour through play,” explains Marycke Ackhurst, pet behaviour expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.
Kittens and adult cats are both stimulated by the same sort of games, though kittens don’t require a great deal of encouragement to get started.
Here are a few reasons why it’s important to play with your cat on a regular basis, says Ackhurst:
Great exercise – Obesity is the number one health problem faced by pets today. Overweight pets are unhappy and live shorter lives. Some of the top reasons for obesity in cats include overeating and a lack of active play. Healthy cats that spend a lot of time outdoors will get plenty of exercise by hunting, playing, and exploring. Sometimes if a cat spends too much time indoors, they can put on weight due to a lack of exercise, however, exercising your cat is not difficult, along with helping your cat lose weight; it makes a big difference to your pet’s overall, health and happiness.
Keeps stress at bay – Has your cat been excessively scratching furniture, is she a lot more vocal than normal or picking fights with the other pets in the home? If so, she may be exhibiting signs of stress. Just like humans, stressed cats may act out and be perceived as mischievous or naughty. To keep your cat from getting stressed ensure that she has an ample opportunity for mental and physical stimulation, especially those that serve as an outlet for their hunting instinct. Engage her with play. Any toy will do, even makeshift homemade ones i.e., a piece of string tied on an empty toilet roll.
Healthy joints – Cats over the age of nine can suffer from arthritis in their joints, however regular play can help your cat maintain muscle tone to prevent this painful condition. As they age, you may need to change the play activities, but make sure to keep your cat engaged. Older cats may like floor play that is a little slower or easier interactive cat toys, like an ice cube tray with their regular food in it.
Educational for kittens – Play teaches kittens several things, including important hunting and predator skills, and helps to develop coordination. If you have more than one kitten, playing with each other can help them acquire social skills and learn boundaries.
Bond building – Playing with your cat on a consistent basis helps to build and strengthen your bond. Plus, watching the excitement in your cat’s body language as they ‘hunt’ for their toy mouse or jump in the air to catch a piece of string will emit happy hormones for both you and your furry feline.
When it comes to how often your cat should play, Ackhurst explains that two play sessions a day would be fantastic for both you and your cat. You might find having a playtime just before bed (or even adding a third one) will help settle down a cat that gets into trouble at night. If your cat doesn’t feel like playing the first time, don’t get discouraged. Keep trying and you’ll start to work out how and when your cat enjoys playtime. Just like kids not all cats like the same type of games. Together try and figure out the games that awake the leopard in them.
Hill’s knows how important the mental and physical enrichment of your cat is, that’s why pet parents get a free cat toy * with every bag of Hill’s Feline purchased, 1.5kg and bigger. The promotion is running at selected participating vet outlets around the country, while stocks last.
*Ts & Cs apply
Visit the Hill’s website for more information
Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.