One of the most memorable moments when we were kids was our playtime, which is also applicable for pets. Playing with our pets is not only fun, but it can also provide plenty of benefits not just for your cat, but for you as well.
Cats are popular as pets because they are low-maintenance, do not need much space, daily walks, and regular baths, unlike dogs. Some cats even help the household with their hunting ability, getting rid of those pesky rats and pests.
Since cats are fairly independent pets, most people assume that they do not need a lot of attention as dogs do. But as any cat parents know, cats need the same care and attention as dogs. Cats will benefit from consistent interactive play and activity.
In this article, we will be elaborating on the benefits of playing with cats and how you can make the most out of it. Cat toys are great, but if you want to shake things up a bit, keep on reading to discover fun ways on how to play with your cat.
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5 Reasons Why Cats Need To Play
Playing with your cat is an excellent way to get your cat energetic every day. Since most cats spend their time indoors, they will physically and mentally benefit from playing and being active. Here are five main reasons why cats need regular play.
1. Playing is an opportunity to exercise.
Understanding a cat’s obesity problem is more complicated than observing their eating habit and energy levels. Obesity can manifest in so many ways but it is all caused by three major factors: poor lifestyle, genetics, and bacteria in a cat’s stomach.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, about 59.5% of cats are overweight, or around 56 million cats worldwide. Like humans, many cats overeat that may result in couch-potato lifestyles, contributing to health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes, and poor grooming habits.
Increasing your cat’s physical activity will help in dropping those unwanted pounds and get them back to their ideal weight.
2. Playing unleashes their predatory instincts.
Domesticated cats came from a long lineage of wild cats that can be found in the forests. These wild cats have adapted to become hunters with a hardwired brain to stalk their prey as their protein source.
Even though many decades have already passed, domesticated cats still have their instinct to prey. Being at home most of the time, they cannot fulfill their predatory instinct, but that doesn’t mean that your cat has already forgotten how to become a predator.
You can help satisfy the predatory instinct of your cat by playing with them for 15 minutes each day. You may use a cat teaser with a feather attachment that can mimic as a prey. For something more high-tech, you can use a laser pointer and let your cat catch the laser, to feel like the predator they were born to be.
3. Playing relieves boredom.
Cats are naturally curious and they will always seek some type of entertainment to get rid of the dreaded boredom. If they aren’t entertained for quite some time, cats can become bored, lazy, and anxious.
Playing provides vital mental stimulation for your cat by allowing them to utilize and exercise their cognitive and motor skills. To make it even more entertaining, use their toys in rotation to avoid them being bored since cats are neophiliacs or someone who loves variety and novelty.
Playing with toys helps to avoid boredom and bad behavior, such as scratching your furniture and pushing objects from your table.
4. Playing promotes bonding.
Since there are a lot of interactions and petting involved during playtime, it is an excellent way to increase the bond with your cat. Exercise in the form of playtime will also boost her confidence and give a relaxing feeling, which in return will strengthen the bond with you.
5. Playing with your cats is FUN!
Believe it or not, not only does your cat will have fun during your playtime but you will too! Playing with your cats will relieve your stress away and is guaranteed to give you tons of laughs.
How Frequent and Long Should Cat Playtime Be?
As busy pet parents, sometimes we do not have enough time to play with our cat. But if we know how frequent and how long we should be playing with them, this will be the least of our problems.
On a daily average, cats need around 15-30 minutes of playtime. If this is not met, cats may develop physical and behavioral problems such as weight gain and constipation, aggressive behaviors through hissing, scratching, and biting humans, crying regularly, or even being aggressive to other pets.
When it comes to how frequently we should play with our cats, it will depend on their personality.
Some cats prefer to play in just a single session for an extended period, while others find it difficult to engage and play for more than a few minutes and prefer short intervals of playtime multiple times throughout the day.
You can prepare for our cat’s preferred playtime frequency by experimenting with playing once, twice, then three times a day. Take note of which frequency they are more engaged in playing.
How To Play With Your Cat The Proper Way?
Playing with your cat is not as simple as it seems! In this section, we will be discussing some tips on how to play with your cat plus the best cat toys and techniques to try out for more fun and engaging playtime sessions!
1. Create a playful environment
Make sure your cat has an exclusive place to call as their sanctuaries such as a cat bed or a corner of a room where less disturbance happens.
Many pet parents know that a cat will claim areas for itself, which might be your favorite chair, computer, or pillow. But if you have made them associated with their own space, this will not be an issue.
Make sure to cat-proof your house to avoid any incident that can harm you and your cat. Begin by keeping your cleaning supplies and other chemicals in securely sealed containers far from your cat’s reach.
Additionally, keep in mind that several plants can be toxic to cats, so it is best to distinguish if you own any of these plants. To find out which plants to get rid of, read our previous article about gardening if you have a cat.
2. Timing is everything
A domesticated cat’s daily routine typically consists of playing, eating, and sleeping. A quick playtime before meals can encourage a good appetite resulting in a healthier lifestyle.
If your cat usually wakes up in the middle of the night and you are still awake, a 15-minute play session before going back to bed can help your cat use up their remaining energy and promotes better sleep until the next morning.
3. Play like her prey
Exercising your cat’s predatory instinct during playtime sessions is an essential part of their development. When using an interactive cat toy such as a feather wand or a mouse on a string, sway and move the toy to mimic the movement of prey.
For example, while using feather wands that mimic birds, control similar to when birds are not flying, they hop around on the ground and then flutter off to land somewhere else. Meanwhile, for a mouse on a string toy, control them in a way that it seems the “mouse” is alive and scurries with sudden starts and stops.
4. Let her win
Of course, since you are already mimicking their toys as their prey, it is also essential to let your cat catch her “prey” during your playtime sessions. If not, they will eventually get frustrated and either stop playing with you or become aggressive in response to the built-up unfulfilled urges.
If you decide to play with a laser pointer, be sure to have some play sessions that involve a toy your cat can catch since cats can’t physically catch a laser.
5. Formulate positive alternatives to unwanted behavior
If your cat seems to attack your feet often, keep a toy with you at all times as a distraction. As soon as you see body language indicating that your cat will “hunt” your feet, distract her with the toy. Do this every time your cat exhibits this behavior, and they will soon learn to exercise her predatory instinct on her toy rather than your feet.
Another good use of a toy is if your cat often shows the behavior of darting out the room every time the door opens. Get your cat’s attention by tossing her favorite toy in the opposite direction as you’re about to leave. This will redirect their attention to playing with the toy instead of sprinting out of the room.
6. Do not use your hand and fingers when playing
As previously mentioned, it is not a good idea to play with your cat using your hands and fingers since this may cause them to develop unwanted aggression toward your hands.
The thought of seeing a little kitten biting at your fingers with its tiny teeth may be cute, but when she’s a full-grown cat, it could turn messy. Since it is more challenging to train an adult cat to get rid of its behavior, it is better to prevent it.
Tell your family members or visitors who will play with your cat to use a toy in playing and not their fingers or hands.
7. Use a variety of toys
Cats, being neophiliacs, enjoy a variety of toys that will allow them to mimic their natural hunting behavior to chase, pounce, or catch. Cats have individual personalities, so you might want to experiment with a few different toys to find what they like the most.
Luckily, there are several types of toys available since not all are suitable for every cat. Here are some kinds of toys you can choose to satisfy your cat’s playtime needs.
Poles and teasers are the most popular toys to cats, which usually come in long wands with feathers, ribbons, or other alluring elements at the other end. Most cats love it if you mimic the target’s movement as their prey, so keep it moving and watch as your cat leaps through the air.
This type of play is excellent for developing your cat’s natural skills like stalking and chasing and improving their paw-and-eye coordination
Mice and Balls
Cats love small furry toys because, in their perspective, these toys are smaller animals. After your cat has hunted for her toys, she may present them to you, feeling proud of the “kill.” Praise your cat for a job well done to encourage more playtime with this kind of toy.
Due to the small size, always keep an eye on your cat to make sure that she doesn’t try to swallow these toys. Eating these toys may not cause a problem right away, but always watch for any signs of stomach distress and call your veterinarian for a checkup.
Catnip is a member of the mint family that contains an essential oil called nepetalactone that can stimulate a cat’s brain. A cat’s reaction to catnip may differ: they may either eat it, smell it, roll in it and get a sudden burst of energy or just feel tranquil and take a relaxing nap.
When buying catnip toys, keep in mind that a kitten may not develop a catnip reaction until they are four to six months of age and that only 50% of cats respond to catnip. Watch your cat’s reaction with catnips to know the effectiveness of playing with catnip toys.
In our previous article, we discussed that cat scratchers keep your cats occupied and engaged.
There are numerous types of cat scratchers such as flat scratchers, trees, condos, ramps, towers, and perches in various shapes and sizes. Some even have balls, feathers, or toys for an all-in-one cat entertainment setup.
Laser pointers are a fun and interactive tool to use to play with your cat. Keep the laser moving so your cat can get the feeling that she is hunting a small, agile animal.
It is imperative not to point the laser directly into your cat’s eyes because it can cause irritation and worse, vision problems.
Playing with laser pointers may lead to frustration to cats since there’s no physical prey to catch, so make sure you always let your cat play with a physical toy that they can “kill” after a session of playtime with a laser pointer.
If you have enough space in your house for a cat tunnel, this is a perfect way to keep your cat engaged. Most cat tunnels include hanging toys attachment for a zhooshed-up playtime.
Cat tunnels stimulate your cat’s playtime needs, the same way they enjoy playing in an empty cardboard box.
Cat mobile apps
Modern problems require modern solutions. If your cat loves to stare at your TV or your computer screen, take advantage of it and add a playtime element with it.
Apps can be downloaded on your tablets and will let your cat get wild with them! Cats will be able to “hunt” a variety of prey on your gadget screen: from dots of light to animated birds, rodents, fish, and lizards.
Just make sure that your tablet is protected with a screen protector to prevent upsetting damages from your cat’s claws!
With patience and consistency, playing with your cat can be the best form of bonding, socializing, and training. If you’ve got a cat brewing to make some trouble, give it a try; you’ll be surprised by how well playtime sessions work to keep them engaged and well entertained.
What is your cat’s favorite game to play? Do you have any other games that you could share with our pet parent community? Comment below!