Many cats enjoy watching out of windows or taking naps. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t need exercise. Your cat needs to be physically and mentally stimulated and would love to spend time playing with you.
But playing games with cats isn’t just about fun. For a cat in the wild, playing is an integral part of helping kittens learn survival skills like chasing, stalking and trapping prey. Even if your cat is an inside cat, this instinct to hunt remains strong. So, to help your cat express this behavior, it’s a good idea to take the time to play with them.
Plus, not only is playing a great way to satisfy the hunting instinct, but it will keep your cat happy and healthy. This is true for cats who spend all their time indoors. Playing games with your cat helps them maintain a healthy weight and keeps them active. Also, interactive play can prevent behavior issues which might surface from being bored. It will also strengthen the bond between you.
How to Recognize When Your Cat Wants to Play
When your cat wants to play, they may start to play on their own with random objects lying around the home. Or they could begin to dart around in sudden random movements. If you see your cat in a crouched position looking as if they’re ready to pounce on something, or if they have enthusiastic behavior, that’s a sign they want to play!
Cat Toys With a Kitten
Play can be used to develop social, communication and coordination skills in kittens. It will give them outlets for excess energy, and help to build a lasting bond between you. Most of the time, a younger cat is more playful than an older one. When you encourage a kitten to play, good manners should be taught as well. Discourage kittens from clawing, biting or scratching.
Playing With an Older Cat
Older cats enjoy games, too, they might just need to be enticed. Make sure play is suited to your cat’s level of mobility.
Keep in mind that your cat will become bored quickly if toys are always available. So, making sure they take part in different kinds of play is essential. Try to help them mimic their predator instincts. Imitate a toy scurrying away, hiding in a bag, or behind a chair. Letting your cat catch and “kill” it will help to keep their hunting instincts sharp.
Which Toys to Choose — Not Just Catnip
Thoroughly check all the toys your cat plays with to be sure they’re safe. They should be large enough not to be swallowed. Toys shouldn’t have any loose strings, buttons, bells, or small parts that your cat might think are a treat.
Some toys have a broad appeal to most cats, such as fur mice, climbing posts and fishing rods with feathers attached to the end.
Some cats enjoy playing with toys that roll and are lightweight, because they’re easier to bat around. You can also buy toys that can be filled with treats to reward your cat. If catnip affects your cat, toys filled with it can keep them busy for hours.
Games to play with cats need to appeal to all of their senses: sight, scent, touch, sound, and taste. Of course, your cat may have specific likes and dislikes. So experiment!
Playing Games With Cats
Below are some games you can play with your cat. They wouldn’t take too much of your time, as little as ten minutes, but can be hugely beneficial when you know your cat needs some stimulation.
- Fetch: Believe it or not, your cat can be taught to play fetch. Choose a toy that’s easy for them to carry in their mouths, and that you can throw across the room. Throw the toy and your will leap to chase it. If they bring it back again praise them with a treat. If they don’t, just go and pick it up and throw it again.
- Paper: Cats love to play with things that make a crinkle sound. Take a piece of paper, crumble it up and bat it around the floor. Your cat will chase it, catch it and wrestle with it, just make sure no loose pieces don’t get chewed or swallowed. When she’s done playing with it, toss it out.
- String and feather: You can buy one or make your own. If you make one, you’ll need a stick, a string, a bell or a feather. Attach the string to the stick and the feather or bell to the end of the string. Then slowly pull it away from your cat’s view. You can pull it over furniture, around corners or dangle it in the air.
- A paper bag: A paper bag will attract your cat’s attention quickly. Lay it on its side and let them investigate. Most likely, they’ll end up inside, and you can poke the bag with your fingers to get her to bat the movements from inside.
- Lights: Cats enjoy chasing reflections of light. If you can catch light off of any reflective surface, you can bounce it off walls and across floors. Before playtime is over, however, switch over to a toy that your cat can catch to avoid them becoming frustrated.
- Online games: There are even games for cats online, that you can download on your computer or tablet. The apps feature mice, fish and other graphics that move and will keep their curiosity piqued.
- Interactive puzzle: This is a DIY game that consists of a shoebox, some treats and some of your cat’s favorite toys. Cut different sized holes in the shoebox. Fill the shoe box with the toys, treats and even catnip. Tape the lid shut to secure it. Then place the box next to your and watch them play!
- Hide and seek: With this game, you can hide behind a chair, desk or around a corner. It will unleash your cat’s predatory side, and they’ll stalk you as though you were prey.
- Rabbit games: This type of game brings out your cat’s instinct to pull a toy to their bellies when they’re on their backs. They’ll kick it with their back legs and bite and shake the “prey.” Toys to use in this game are catnip-filled mice, lightweight fur toys, or toys with feathers. Throw the toy across the room and your cat will pounce on it.
- Cardboard box: Cats love cardboard boxes. In fact, if you put a cardboard box on the floor with the open side up, no matter what size, a cat will usually try to get inside it. Your cat may jump in and out, curl up inside or pounce on you and then jump back inside.
Another thing to think about is that cats become bored playing with the same toys. Keep their interest by swapping toys around every couple of days.
Dawn and dusk is the perfect playtime for your cats. Although this is also the time when you’re probably getting ready for work or coming home, if you spend five or ten minutes a day playing with your cat, they’ll be more content.
What types of games do you play with your cat? Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions! Visit veterinarians.com to find a vet near you.