Playing with your cat or kitten is such a fun way to bond with them, and it’s beneficial to their health and development as well. Playtime keeps them physically and mentally active, and ensures they get enough exercise.
Cats are naturally curious and intelligent, and they thrive when we provide them with the proper physical and mental stimulation. It’s especially important to help them engage in their natural predatory behaviours, like hunting and stalking.
Toys and games
Try to provide a variety of toys that mimic the prey cats would naturally hunt. Toy mice and birds are ideal, especially if you can simulate movement. Cats have a strong instinctive desire to stalk and catch prey, so you’ll find you have the most success if you can mimic the actions of something they’re likely to hunt.
Encourage your cat to chase and capture the toys, to satisfy their natural hunting instinct. For example, dangle a small toy mouse, ball or feather at the end of a wand or string, and allow your cat to stalk and chase it for several minutes before pouncing and catching it.
If you’re using a laser pointer rather than a physical toy, give your cat a small treat when they “capture” it, to create a feeling of reward and prevent frustration.
Have a few different toys available and rotate them regularly, so your cat stays engaged and doesn’t become bored.
Cats don’t need expensive toys from a pet shop; if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of fun DIY toys you can make with household objects. Cardboard rolls, boxes, plastic bottles or even crumpled pieces of paper are all great for keeping active kitties entertained.
If you have an indoor cat, or a cat that might be home alone for long periods while you’re at work, it’s important to give them a variety of opportunities for solo play. This includes safe toys and enrichment items like cat trees, perches, scratching posts or activity centres.
Toys that make noises with bells or “squeakers” are also good options for cats spending time alone, as the sound acts as an extra stimulus during solo play.
- Be aware of potential safety hazards when playing with your cat.
- Avoid using plain pieces of string, yarn, elastic bands, ribbon or streamers when playing with your cat. They can easily be swallowed and cause intestinal problems.
- Never leave your cat unsupervised around hazardous items like string, yarn or plastic bags.
- Avoid toys with small loose pieces (like “googly eyes”), or pack them away safely after playtime. Don’t use these toys as solo play options.
- Don’t use your hands or feet as “toys” during playtime. This will encourage a kitten or cat to bite and scratch, thinking it’s an appropriate form of play. You want your cat to associate your hands with petting and feeding, not hunting and biting!
How often should you play with your cat?
How often you play with your kitten or cat will depend on their age, activity level and personal preferences – some cats enjoy playtime more than others. Ideally, you should enjoy two play sessions a day with your cat, of around 15 to 20 minutes each. Most cats prefer short bursts of activity, with naps in between.
If your cat doesn’t feel like playing at first, don’t get discouraged. And if your cat decides to walk away, don’t try to force an interaction. Try different things to engage your cat’s attention and curiosity over time, and you’ll soon start to learn how and when your furry friend prefers to play.
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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.