Cat Play - How To Play With Your Cat
What Is Cat Play?
Cat play is the recreational interaction between humans and the cats who own them. It can be great fun for both cats and their humans. Playing together is not only fun, but it provides much needed exercise for cats both young and old. It's also a great way to deepen the connection or emotional bond with your cat. This is important for you and for kitty, as it makes your relationship more harmonious. Plus, if you're lucky, it will wear him out before bedtime and you'll be more likely to get good nights sleep!
Playing With Kittens
Kittens like to play with everything. Wires, power cords, blind and drapery pulls and more! Please be sure you have removed all string, plastic bags, small items they could eat, and really anything questionable if you're not supervising him. Cat play should always be safe. You may want to install child safety locks on your cabinets. Many a curious kitten has found their way into cabinets and their contents, especially those under the sink may be hazardous, so when in doubt, play it safe.
Your kitten will really enjoy playing with interactive toys like fishing toys and things on string, but be sure to teach him that acceptable cat play means attacking the toys, not you.
Playing rough and tumble with him using your hands and allowing play biting is probably going to come back and haunt you later when he is bigger and still thinks of your hand as a chew toy!
Read my reviews of Cat Toys here!
Why You Should Play With Your Cat
Playing lets your cat practice his hunting skills - stalking prey, making the ever-so-stealthy approach, pouncing like the fierce predator he is and then reveling in the victory. This makes him cats very happy.
My Spooky loves to prance away carrying his mouse victoriously, dragging the fishing toy behind him. (I retrieve it later when he's moved on to other things.)
The exercise your cat gets while playing helps keep him healthy, and build his muscles. In older cats, it may well contribute to their flexibility. Just be sure not to work them too hard or make them jump if it might be injurious to them. Playing is an acceptable way for your cat to release negative energy or aggression and burn off boredom.
Some other benefits to playing:
Playing helps a shy cat gain confidence. Just as with humans, Gaining experience and proficiency helps develop good self esteem and courage.
Playing helps keep your cat in good physical health and provides necessary exercise.
A regular playtime can go a long way to ease a new cat's transition to your home and help establish his new routine.
And last, let's face it, it's just plain fun!
How to Play With Your Cat
Keep lots of toys on hand and rotate them often. Some really good, yet inexpensive cat toys you can buy include wand toys, fishing pole type toys, furry mice, balls with jingle bells in them, Catnip filled fabric mice, bananas, squirrels and crinkly, crunchy sounding Catnip anything.
Not all your cat's toys need be bought though. There are some terrific toys that you probably already have at home! Wadded up balls of paper, Empty boxes (with any exposed tape removed of course) plastic straws, and one of the all time cat play favorites, plastic rings from milk containers. Except for a few favorites, it's a good idea to put the toys away after playtime.
Also be certain that all fishing or string toys are put away where kitty cannot get to them as the strings could harm your cat if not supervised in their use. The rotating of toys helps keep your cat interested.
I keep Spooky’s mice in a carton of catnip and it's always welcomed back when I take one out to play. If a toy is always out, it can become boring to your cat.
Cats are natural hunters. Make the toy act like a mouse or a bird to arouse your cat's curiosity. Pretend that the toy is a frightened and possibly wounded little animal. It tries to escape from the fierce warrior cat; it hides around a corner, ducks under a pillow, it freezes in place once in a while.
Don't get too dramatic about it; let your cat provide the drama and set the pace. Small subtle moves can be very effective. Varying the speed and direction of the toy will almost always keep your cat watching and playing. For extra fun, put out boxes, paper bags and fabric play cubes that both cat and prey can hide behind.
Trial and error will tell you what kinds of cat play excite your cat. Try different approaches to see what he likes best. If nothing else, your silly human attempts at the game will amuse him.
Match your actions to your cat's level of interest and reaction. After a while, you'll get to know his ways and playing preferences.
Don't make it too easy on him either - let your cat enjoy the thrill of a good challenging hunt, but when he comes in for the big kill, let him have that victory and be sure to tell him what a fierce kitty he is and praise him for his efforts.
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A good time to end your playtime and put up the toys is when you've played for 10 or 15 minutes and your cat has just had a victory over his prey.
If he seems to lose interest and you've tried for a few minutes to engage him, give it up and play again later or tomorrow.
Passing out goodies after a victorious play session is another way to make your car purr with delight. He can now rest and relax to enjoy his reward for a job well done.
Cat play is good for your cat both mentally and physically, and can even be used to help retrain or eliminate unwanted behaviors. Just be sure to pay attention to your cat's reactions and respect his rights as an individual.
Cat Play Technique Dos and Don'ts
When playing with your cat, Do:
* Move the toy as real prey would move. For instance, if you're playing with ribbons or stringy stuff, move them in a snake like motion, varying speed. A toy will seem more appealing if you drag it a little at a time, wiggle it around and make it appear as if it were trying to run away. Cat play often involves a good deal of stealth.
* Vary your speed between fast and slow movements and be sure to have the prey hide at times and give kitty a moment to catch his breath!
* Play in areas where the cat can play “hide and pounce” just as he would if he were hunting. Stalking is half the fun!
* Try not to make the game too hard – let your cat win every now and then. No one wants to play a game they know they can't win.
* Give him a moment after capture. When your cat scores and captures the prey, let him play with it until he loosens his grip or drops it from his mouth before beginning again – many cats even learn to “fetch” the toy back to their human.
My lovely niece Schmooo is an expert at this, often fetching a toy even when no one has thrown it, and often while her human (my sister) is asleep. Waking up with a furry mouse dropped on your head is just one of the many joys of living with a cat. (according to the cats anyway!)
* Slow down the pace of play when you are ready to end playtime, almost as if the prey has gotten worn out, and let your fierce hunter get in one final victory so that he is left with a sense of achievement.
* Provide a treat or some kind of goodie at the end of your cat's successful hunt.
When Playing With Your Cat, Don't
* Dangle the toy too close to your cat's face and be careful not to hit him in the head with it. These things tend to make your cat feel stressed out and when they have to swat at it to make it go away, the cat may become confused and angry since natural prey doesn't act in this way.
* Fling or swish the toy around so crazily that the cat has little opportunity to catch it. That's just plain annoying for your cat. Cat play is supposed to be a happy time for your feline!
* Keep bird-like or feathery toys in the air constantly – you have to let the bird land now and them to provide opportunity for your cat to pounce on it!
* Yank on the string or toy when the cat has it in his teeth or claws. You can really hurt your feline friend this way. A gentle tug is fine, but no more.
* Allow your cat to play bite your hands or feet. – This may seem cute at first, but it gets old real fast when you are attacked by sharp teeth and claws on your way to the kitchen for a midnight snack!
And further, if you've trained him that this is ok, you have no right to get mad at him – he thinks he's just playing after all!
Start as early as possible playing with your cat using toys and never let him bite you even in play.
What if Kitty Shows No Interest?
If your cat doesn't respond well to your efforts at cat play, try some of the other toys in your rotation or maybe use a pinch of catnip to get the party started. Roll the catnip in your hands to break the leaves up and release that glorious cat-enchanting scent!
If you have stuffed catnip toys, try twisting or crushing them to release the scent. Remember that catnip is like any other herb and will lose its potency over time. Replace catnip toys when they begin to lose their appeal.
Not all cats respond to catnip, and usually not until at least 6 months of age. For the cats who do like it though, it can really make cat play more fun. In case you've wondered, catnip is harmless and perfectly safe to use on a regular basis.
If you've tried everything to get your cat to play with you and he still says no, then respect it, and leave him be. Do monitor his activities though, because lethargy can sometimes be a sign of health issues.
I hope this article on cat play will help you to have more fun playing with your cat and make it safer and more exciting for you both. Enjoy your unique friendship with your cat, and keep a camera handy so you can capture lots of great cat pictures to post on my
Cat Pictures Page!
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