Playing with your cat
Playing with your cat is an important part of maintaining their health and your bond with them. Luckily, they love to play!
Providing opportunities for solo play is particularly important for indoor cats, especially if they spend much of the day alone.
Kittens and adult cats are both stimulated by the same sort of games, though kittens don't require a great deal of encouragement to get started. Cat play is almost entirely about simulating behaviour associated with hunting.
Cats have a strong instinctive desire to stalk and kill prey so you'll find you have the most success if you can mimic the actions of something they’re likely to hunt.
The right toys
The first thing you're going to want to find is a proper toy to play with your cat. If you're trying to stimulate prey hunting behaviour you don't want to use your hands. Even if your cat is gentle, they might bite if they become too excited. You want your cat to associate your hands with petting and feeding, not hunting and killing.
Good toys for cats are easy to find and most of the time you don't even have to buy them. They're usually just as interested in a piece of paper or a ping-pong ball as a manufactured toy.
Rolled up balls of tin foil, plastic caps from bottles, paper bags or anything that moves easily and makes a bit of noise is a prime candidate to be turned into a cat toy.
Be wary of plain pieces of string, elastic bands or anything else your cat might swallow. Some thinner pieces of string, when stretched, can even become sharp. These might make good toys, but you musn't let your cat play with them unattended.
Toys that have bells or 'squeakers' are especially good to give your cat if they are likely to be left alone as the noise acts as an extra stimulus.
The important point to remember with all these toys is that you need to alternate them to prevent boredom. Don't just throw all your cats toys on the floor and leave them. Cats are very smart and will tire of toys quickly.
Instead, put out only one or two toys and change them regularly. This will be far more interesting for your cat.
A fantastic type of toy for you and your cat to play with is the kind that has a ball, mouse or feather at the end of a string. Sometimes the string is also attached to a wand. These toys make it very easy for you to simulate moving prey for your cat.
Try to imitate a small animal sneaking around your furniture. Or swing it through the air like a bird, letting it occasionally land and hop around on the ground. Take your time, let your cat stalk or chase the 'prey' for a bit. After five or ten minutes, let your cat pounce on the mouse or snatch the bird out of the air. It's important that your cat feels like they had a successful hunt.
Your cat may chew on the toy or carry it off. If you are both still having fun the toy can come alive again, or you can introduce a new one. Anything with a string on it shouldn't be left out for your cat to chew through and swallow. And remember, it's important to keep the toys fresh and exciting.
Cats can become very attached to small stuffed toys, and every once and a while will bring them outside to play with. Some will meow and howl over a favourite stuffed animal. There is no conclusive explanation why they do this; however, it is all good fun and part of your cat's play.
Two play sessions a day would be fantastic for both you and your cat. You might find having a playtime just before bed (or even adding a third one) will help settle down a cat that usually gets into trouble at night.
If your cat doesn't feel like playing the first time, don't get discouraged. Keep trying and you'll start to work out how and when your cat likes to play.