Cats are often considered a low maintenance pet: feed, water, scoop the box. You don’t need to take them for a walk. You rarely need to get them groomed. They aren’t begging for your attention like a dog does. We often forget how important it is to play with our cats daily. They may not ask for much, but an interesting environment is vital to keeping them happy and healthy.
Why Play with Your Cat?
• Increases the bond you share
• Makes life more interesting and fun
• Reduces obesity
• Improves behavior
Here are some Helpful Hints on How to Play with Your Cat
- Do not reward bad behavior. Only elicit play when your cat is calm.
- Do not use your hands to “rough up” your cat. Throw balls or play with a feather wand instead. Stop if play gets too rough.
- Keep a schedule and play at regular intervals. Cats appreciate a normal routine.
- Ask all family members to participate.
Cats have an evolutionary instinct to hunt and pounce. Cats love toys that squeak, chirp, jitter, swing or vibrate. Such toys mimic prey and will entice your cat to interact with you. Examples of such toys include a catnip filled mouse that moves or a feather wand or stick with a dangling toy. Some cats like to swat at ping pong balls, while others prefer to bat around a treat filled toy. This is an excellent way to make meal time last longer and give some exercise at the same time.
Some simple DIY toys include crumpled up paper balls, the center rolls from toilet paper, or tied socks filled with cotton balls and catnip.
Don’t forget cats like visual stimulation, too. Provide a perch by a window sill, a fish tank or if you want to go high tech, let your pet watch your I-Pad. There are great nature videos featuring birds, fish, rodents and insects available from various online sources. Keep a variety of toys on hand for your cat. Prevent them from getting bored by rotating your stock of toys. Some cats might love a toy so much they start sleeping next to it. When your cat does this, he is telling you he would like to keep the toy, so please don’t include this in the rotation.
Ideas for Increasing a Cat’s Activity
• Teach your cat to play fetch. Attach a favorite toy to a line, throw the toy, and reel it back.
• Attach a toy to a shoelace and drag it around the house. Don’t forget to drag it onto higher locations where your cat can climb.
• Throw a piece of kibble across the floor and watch your cat chase it.
• Recycle a paper bag or cardboard box. When your cat goes into it to explore, tap or scratch your finger on the side, encouraging them to catch you!
• Replace a part of a meal with hidden kibble in multiple locations around the house for them to “hunt”. Hide the kibble in high and low places to make the hunt more interesting.
• Laser pointers are great, but they don’t allow the cat “win”. Make sure your cat “catches” something once in awhile by throwing a toy mouse onto the dot as they pounce.
Now that we have discussed a cat’s natural instincts and behaviors, you may better address their needs. The staff of Longwood Veterinary Center encourages a stimulating and enriching environment. Come check out our feline exam room- which includes a fish tank, a cubby for climbing or hiding, and calming pheromone sprayed towels.
We hope this helps get you and your cat moving and having fun!