Playing with your kitty may seem intuitive: bat the string, cat chases the string, everyone goes home happy. However, cats are complex, variable, and temperamental creatures. It's important to know how to play with cats in order to ensure that they not only enjoy themselves, but also get enough exercise, satisfy their natural instincts, and remain safe and healthy.
Why You Should Play With Your Cats
In a house cat's life, play serves a number of purposes. Though they are housebound, they still retain that killer instinct that serves their wild counterparts so well. Because they don't have to fight for their food, though, domestic cats are more prone to weight gain. This can lead to a number of health concerns, including weakened joints and diabetes. Play can also help a cat and his owner bond, as shared activities cultivate a feeling of camaraderie.
Play by the Ages
The various types of play will depend on a lot of things. For example, the cat's personal preferences, health and mobility, and the environment of the home. Once you have taken these things into account, age will play a large role in dictating how you will ultimately interact with your cats. For instance, kittens require play that fosters their maturing development, and trains them to become well-behaved adults. Younger adult cats, especially those adopted from pounds and foster homes, may still require some training; however, they will also crave mental stimulation and physical enrichment. More mature felines are no different than their younger cohorts, but may prefer to take it a little easier. So, how to play with cats in their various stages
To a kitten, pretty much everything is a toy. At this stage, they don't know that that enticing wire hanging out of the lamp is something to be avoided. So right now, distraction is key. Teaser toys are a great bet for your fluffy new friend. So are soft, plushy critters, rubbery chew toys and remote controlled rodents. Cat trees with dangly balls and plenty of perches are also fantastic for encouraging them to blow off some excess energy.
Young Adult Cats
Now that your cat is a little older and more familiar with the rules, introducing him to puzzles might help to engage him both physically and mentally. Many of these toys are made up of compartments stuffed with treats or dry food that your cat can grab if he finds the right door. Puzzle balls release the prize when batted around. You may still be in the training phase at this point. If so, be sure to have on hand plenty of interactive toys to help distract him from off-limits household items.
In felines, mobility issues may make playtime a bit trickier; however, physical activity is still essential, as it lubricates and keeps the joints moving, ensures a healthy weight, and keeps your kitty mentally sharp. Because his hunting instincts are still intact, your senior cat will likely still enjoy teaser toys. Though, you may want to keep it a little lower to the ground. Puzzles are great for mature cats, as well as catnip, balls and food dispenser toys.
A General Guide to Play
Everyone is different, and how your cat responds should dictate how you interact with him; however, because of their shrunk-down-wild-cat natures, most kitties will often enjoy some similar key things.
Since cats like to hunt, manipulating their toys in a way that mimics potential prey is a great way to stoke their interest and initiate a rollicking game of chase and attack.
Cats have a relatively short attention span. If they feel as if they can't eventually win the game, they will likely quit it. In order to keep your fickle feline on board, allow him to actually catch and "kill" his prey from time to time.
You may not associate playing with eating, but now that your cat has caught his prey, it's only natural that he should want to eat. In many cases, the natural progression of hunt, kill, eat, groom, sleep will lead your cat into lethargic bliss. However, some cats get an extra boost of stamina post-meal, so be sure to be prepared to spend a little more time working off that energy.
Your kitty may adore frolicking with you, but he has a pretty vivid imagination that can spur on bouts of spontaneous play. That being said, be sure to keep his environment enriched with plenty of rolling toys, plush toys, trees, tunnels, puzzles and cardboard boxes!
Knowing how to love cats is easy – what's not to love, after all? But knowing how to play with cats is a whole different thing. When it comes to interaction with your feline companion, more than anything, be certain to pay close attention. With a bit of observation, you will quickly come to realize that your cat already knows how to play and is just waiting for you to catch up!