“All work and no play makes your cat a dull boy.”
Jack Nicholson’s character may have been haunted by vengeful spirits when he uttered these lines (or something close to that), but this proverb holds true when it comes to your house cat. Many a feline family has reported wanton destruction from idle paws: shredded drapes, eviscerated sofas, and even the occasional mauled bag of bread.
Wondering how to keep your family safe from the terror stalking your halls? (After all, cats are basically tigers. Just smaller.) The answer is deceptively simple: playtime!
Read on for tips to engage your kitty’s inner hunter and keep her happy, healthy and behaving well.
Playtime: Let the Hunt Begin
Cat play isn’t just an opportunity for our kitties to goof off. It’s actually an essential part of a healthy and happy lifestyle. This is especially true for indoor cats, where opportunities to roam and exercise may be limited. In addition to helping maintain a healthy weight, play gives cats a chance to simulate one of their favorite pastimes: hunting!
Playing is also practical. In younger cats, play helps develop social and motor skills as they learn to get along with other cats and species (including humans!). Regular play can even ease the transition into a new environment, or the introduction to a new feline family member.
Even when your cat has access to the great outdoors, interactive playtime can teach you more about your pets’ personalities and strengthen the bond between you and your furry friends.
Just remember, different cats have different personalities, which means different styles of play. Be receptive to your furry friend’s signals, and the two of you will be having fun in no time. Who knows, maybe your video will be the next viral sensation!
Games, Gadgets and Gizmos: The Gear for Fulfilling Play
We all love the looks on our cats’ faces when we surprise them with new toys. There’s a wide variety out there, and as a cat might say, variety is the
spice catnip of life. But before you go hog wild at the pet store, it’s important to know the benefits and drawbacks of each toy type so you can make sure your toy meets your unique needs.
Cat toys fall into one of four categories:
- Ground (or “ball”) Toys. Perhaps the simplest of the categories, ground toys can still be very effective. This category includes anything from simple balls, to rodent-shaped toys, to a crumpled wad of paper. Small and quick, ground toys can resemble your kitty’s preferred rodent prey in both size and behavior. They’re great for chasing and swatting, and when combined with treats or catnip, ground toys can be especially rewarding for cats who can capture and “kill” their prey. They’re also suitable for solo and interactive play. Of course, such toys tend to have a fairly limited and predictable range of motion, so your cat may lose interest. That’s where the next category comes in…
- Air (or “wand”) Toys. Does your furry friend prefer birds to mice? Then you’ll want to grab one of these toys instead. Wand toys often resemble a fishing pole, with some “bait” (usually feathers or other attractive material) secured to the end. By dangling the toy in the air around your cat, the erratic movements can resemble your cat’s natural, airborne prey. Unlike ground toys, you don’t have to worry about losing these under the couch, and as a bonus, your soft hands keep out of range of those finely honed claws. Just don’t forget to put them away when the two of you are finished. As wand toys wear out, small parts that fall off could be dangerous if swallowed.
- Food-dispensing Toys. This category includes any toys that reward your cat with food or a treat for successfully capturing their prey or solving some sort of puzzle. By making them work for their meal, these toys more closely resemble the conclusion of an actual hunt. These often involve the use of ground toys, although some families have concocted more creative solutions as well:
- Cat Nip Toys. Add a dash of catnip to any toy or scratching post for a special play session. True to type, many (not all) cats love the stuff. Reactions to catnip can vary, including aggressive playfulness, but don’t worry — this heightened state of excitement should wear off after ten minutes or so. Other cats may become more relaxed as they roll around or chew on the mint-family herb. This allure also makes catnip useful for training or rewarding desirable behavior. Regardless of the reaction, it takes most cats about two hours before they respond again, so be sure to take a break between uses. Learn more about cat nip and why cats go crazy (or get lazy) around it.
When time comes to clean up, it’s fine to leave a few toys out for your cat. After all, they enjoy solitary play as well as social play. Just be sure the toys are safe and don’t require supervision. Strings, feathers and other extra pieces could present a choking hazard.
It’s inevitable, however, that your cat will lose interest after a while. But not to worry! Keep a roster of toys that you can rotate in and out according to her preference.
Ultimately, your cat is a predator, so it’s no accident that her favorite toys mimic the movement of her prey in the wild. The best toys will tap into this inner hunter and provide a more fulfilling play experience.
As the old saying goes: “The cat who plays is the cat who stays… happy and healthy!”
Read on for more tips on creating a feline-friendly play environment, plus how you fit into the picture.
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