How To Play With Cats

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One of our fondest memories, when we were kids, was our playtime, which also speaks to our cats, and in this article, we will giving you tips on how to play with cats.

Playing with our cats is not only fun, but it also provides lots of needed exercise for cats of all ages. Additionally, it strengthens the pet parent-furbaby bond, which is great for everyone’s well-being. 

Cats are well-known for being low-maintenance pets since they do not need much space, daily walks, and regular baths. Some cats even help the household with their hunting ability, to get rid of those pesky mice.

A cat stalking a mouse

Since cats are easy-to-keep pets, most people assume that they don’t need a lot of attention as dogs do. But as any cat parent knows, cats need the same care and attention as dogs and human babies.

They will benefit from consistent interactive play and activity (such as exercising) as much as dogs and people do.

In this article, we will be tackling the benefits of playing with your 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 find some fun new ways on how to play with your cat.

5 Reasons Why Cats Need To Play

Playing with your cat is a great way to get your furbaby moving every day. Since most cats are an indoor-only pet, your cat will benefit physically and mentally from playing and being active. 

While kittens and young adult cats tend to play and entertain themselves, cats that are overweight and older may need your assistance in finding their inner kitten. Here are the main reasons why cats need consistent play.

1. Playing is an opportunity to exercise.

Understanding your cat’s health is more complicated than just overeating and taking too many cat naps. Obesity in pets can be caused by poor lifestyle, genetics, or bacteria in your pet’s stomach.  

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, about 59.5% of cats are overweight, or around 56 million cats. Like humans, many cats overeat and lead couch-potato lifestyles, contributing to health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes, and poor grooming habits.

A cat sitting down

Increasing your cat’s physical activity can help her drop those unwanted pounds and get back to their healthy weight.

2. Playing unleashes their predatory instincts

Wild cats found in the forests are finely tuned hunters hardwired to stalk their prey to become their protein source. 

Even though pet cats may have been domesticated, they still have that instinct to prey. Being at home most of the time, they cannot fulfill their predatory instinct, but that doesn’t mean they stop wanting to be predators.

A cat chasing a wind-up mouse

You can calm down the predatory instinct in your cat’s mind by playing with them for just 15 minutes each day. You may use a cat teaser with a feather attached to it that will mimic as the prey.

For something more futuristic, 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 need some type of entertainment to get rid of the dreaded boredom. If they aren’t entertained, cats can become bored, lazy, and anxious. 

A bored cat

Playing provides vital mental stimulation for your kitty by allowing her to exercise her cognitive and motor skills.

To make it even more entertaining, use a variety of toys, but keep in mind not to use your hands to avoid unwanted aggression towards them. 

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Playing through toys helps to avoid boredom and mischievous behavior, such as scratching your furniture and pushing objects from your table.

4. Playing promotes bonding

Playing with your cat is an excellent way to increase the bond that you share with them. 

A child hugging a cat

Exercise in the form of playtime will help your kitty release anxiety and aggression through mental and physical stimulation. This will boost her confidence and give a relaxing feeling, which in return will strengthen the bond with you. 

5. Playing with your cats is FUN!

Playtime shouldn’t be only fun for cats, you should be having fun too! Playing with your cats will relieve your stress away. Watch this video compilation of cats chasing lasers for some hilariousness: 

How Frequent and Long Should Cat Playtime Be?

As busy pet parents, sometimes we do not have enough time to squeeze in playing with our feline buddy. But if we know how frequent and how long we should be playing with our cat, this will be the least of our problems.

On average, cats need around 15-30 minutes of playtime a day. If this duration is not met, cats may develop physical and behavioral problems such as weight gain and constipation, acting out by aggression through hissing, scratching, and biting humans, crying regularly, or even being aggressive to other cats at your home.

A cat playing with a toy

When it comes to how often we should play with our cats, it will depend on your cat’s personality. 

Some cats prefer to play in just one session for an extended period, while some find it hard to engage and play for more than a few minutes and prefer short intervals of playtime throughout the day.

Some hyperactive cats will even invite you to play by reaching their paws out to you and head-butting your legs for quite a while.

You can determine your cat’s preferred playtime frequency by experimenting with playing once, twice, then three times a day. Observe which frequency they are more engaged in playing. 

How To Play With A Cat The Right Way?

Playing with your cat is not as simple as it seems! In this section, we will be checking out some tips on how to play with your cat plus the best cat toys and techniques to try out for a fun, engaging playtime session! 

1. Create a playful environment 

Make sure your cat has a dedicated place to call as their own such as a cat bed or a corner of a room where less disturbance happens.

Many pet parents know that a cat will claim spots for itself, which might be your favorite chair, computer, or pillow. But if you have made them familiar with their own space, this will not be a problem.

A cat staring her mouse toy

Make sure to cat-proof your house to avoid any incident that can harm your family and your cat. Begin by keeping your cleaning supplies and other chemicals in securely sealed containers out of your cat’s reach. 

Also, keep in mind that certain plants can be toxic to your cat, so it is best to know if you own any of these plants. To find out which plants to get rid of, read our article about gardening for cats.

If your cat is used to going outdoors, you can train her to walk on a leash. I have made a list of the best leashes and harnesses for cats, make sure to check them out if you fancy training your cat to walk with you.

2. Timing is everything

Our feline friends’ daily routine generally consists of playing, eating, and sleeping. A quick playtime before supper can encourage a good appetite.

If your cat usually wakes up in the middle of the night and you are still awake, a 15 to 20-minute play session before going to bed can help your cat sleep through until the next morning.

3. Play like her prey

Exercising your cat’s predator instinct or drive to hunt through 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, move the toy as if it is a prey.

A cat playing with a feather toy

As an example, while using feather wands that represent birds. 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

It’s essential to let your cat catch her “prey” during your playtime sessions. If not, she will get frustrated and either stop playing with you or become aggressive in response to her unfulfilled urges. 

A cat biting her toy

If you play with a laser pointer, be sure to have some play sessions that involve a toy your cat can catch.

5. Create positive alternatives to unwanted behavior

If your cat seems to attack your feet frequently, keep a toy with you at all times. As soon as you see body language indicating that your cat will “hunt” your legs, distract her with the cat toy.

Do this every time you see this behavior, and your cat will learn to exercise her predatory instinct on her toy rather than your feet. 

A cat playing with ankles

If your cat often shows the behavior of darting out the room every time the door opens, get her attention with her favorite toy and toss it in the opposite direction as you’re about to leave. This will divert their attention to playing instead of sprinting out of the room.

6. Do not use your fingers when playing with your cat

As previously mentioned, it is a big no-no to play with your cat using your hands and fingers, as this may cause them to develop unwanted aggression toward your hands. 

A cat being stroked by the chin

The thought of seeing a little kitten biting at your fingers with their tiny teeth may be cute, but when she’s a full-grown cat, it could turn ugly.

Since it is more challenging to train an adult cat to get rid of their behavior, it is better to prevent it. Tell your family members or visitors who visit your cat to use a toy in playing and not their fingers or hands. 

7. Use a variety of toys

Many cats enjoy various toys and choose toys that will allow your cat to mimic its natural hunting behavior to chase, pounce, or catch.

Cats have individual personalities, so you might want to try a few different toys to find what they like. You can check this list of interactive toys for cats.

A cat with a woolly toy

Luckily, there are various types of toys available since not all are suitable for all cats. Here are some types of toys you can choose to satisfy your cat’s playtime needs.

  • Fishing Poles/Teasers

Poles and teasers are one of the most popular toys for cats, which usually come in long wands with feathers, ribbons, or other enticing items at the other end. Most cats love it if you simulate the target’s movement as their prey, so keep it moving and watch as your cat leaps through the air.

Cats catching her toy

This type of play is excellent for developing your cat’s natural skills like stalking and chasing.  

  • Mice and Balls

Cats love small furry toys because, in their perspective, these toys are other creatures. After your cat has hunted for her toys, she may bring them to you, feeling proud of the “kill.” Praise your furbaby for a job well done to encourage more playtime with this toy type.

A cat playing with a furry ball

Due to the small size, always keep an eye on your cat to make sure 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 consultation.

  • Catnip Toys

Catnip is a member of the mint family that contains an essential oil called nepetalactone that can stimulate your cat’s brain. A cat’s reaction to catnip may vary: they may eat it, smell it, roll in it, get a sudden burst of energy or just feel tranquil and take a nap. 

A cat sniffing catnip

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. Observe your cat’s response with catnip to know the effectiveness of catnip toys.

  • Scratchers
Cat on a scratching post

In our previous article on how to stop your cat from scratching your furniture, we discussed that cat scratchers help keep your cats busy and engaged.

Types of cat scratchers vary from 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 amenity.

  • Lasers

Laser pointers are a fun and interactive way to play with your cat. Keep the laser moving so your cat can grasp the feeling of hunting something. It is essential not to point the laser directly into your cat’s eyes as it can damage them. 

Playing with laser pointers may lead to frustration 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 playing with the laser pointer. 

  • Cat tunnels

If you have enough space for a cat tunnel, this is perfect for your cat. Most tunnels include hanging toys inside for additional play. Cat tunnels will stimulate your cat’s playtime needs, the same way they enjoy playing in an empty cardboard box. 

A cat with a toy tunnel
  • Cat apps

Modern problems require modern solutions. If your cat is fond of staring at your TV or your computer, take advantage of it and add some playtime with it. 

Apps can be downloaded on your tablets and let your cat get wild with them! On-screen, your cat will be able to “hunt” at everything from dots of light and animated butterflies, mice, fish, and lizards! Just make sure that your tablet is protected with a screen protector to avoid damages from your cat’s claws!

With patience and by doing these tips, regularly playing with your cat can become the best tool for bonding, socializing, and training. If you’ve got a cat that’s acting up, give it a try; you’ll be surprised by how well playtime sessions for cats work.

A cat with her long-haired owner

We hope we have given you some awesome ways on how to play with cats. What is your favorite game to play with your feline buddies? Comment down below and share it with our pet parent community!

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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