Here's the truth, as far as we're concerned:
Curiosity BUILT the cat!
In fact, felines thrive on opportunities to exercise and explore their world…aka, PLAY. Play is essential for helping your cat live the purrfectly healthy and happy life she deserves. So, do you know how to play with a cat properly?
In this post, we're going to show you why the best cat parents take play seriously—but not too seriously!
Keep reading to learn about the benefits of and how to playing with a cat, how to play with your kitten vs your adult cat, fun ideas for creative and engaging play activities, and how to keep your kitty safe during all the fun and games that go on in your household.
Why Play With Cats?
It's hard to put a limit on the number of benefits to regular playtime with your kitty. Here are a few of the top reasons to let loose and enjoy some quality time with your cutie:
- Play gives your kitty a chance to play the “hunting” role that runs deeps in her genes—a natural instinct that innately feels good and is both physically and mentally stimulating.
- Play encourages your cat to stay physically active, which can extend her life and prevent or manage health conditions like obesity and arthritis.
- Play-induced exercise is especially important for indoors-only kitties who may not get to roam as far as their outdoor four-legged peers do.
- Play may help reduce behavioral problems associated with kitty boredom (yes, that's a thing!). These problem behaviors include scratching furniture and aggression.
Of course, we can't forget to mention all the ways you benefit from playing with your kitty! Letting loose and playing with your furry feline may help you by alleviating stress, promoting a sense of bonding, and depending on the type of activity you do with her may even boost your physical health, too!
How to Play With Kittens
Young kitties are a lot like young kids—they'll naturally want to play!
Why? Because this how they explore and learn about their world.
So the next time your kitty tries to engage you in some fun and games, be sure to join in! Aim for at least 10 to 15 minutes a couple times each day. Be mindful of her growing body and avoid “rough-housing.”
You can also invite your kitty to play by introducing a variety of different toys and games (keep reading for more inspiration). She'll often like plush “prey-like” toys she can carry in her mouth, or kitty-sized stuffed toys she can “fight” and “wrestle” with.
Keep in mind that just because your little kitten's teeth aren't tough now, that doesn't mean they'll stay that way. She's getting bigger and stronger every day. If you let her play-bite your hands as a kitten, she may be more likely to bite human hands by the time she's a full-grown adult…which can really hurt!
So, don't let her bite your hands, even if it doesn't “hurt”. Gently redirect her to a toy that's not small enough to swallow and reinforce her engagement with the object by rewarding her with praise and pets.
How to Play With a Cat
Whether you own one cat, two cats, three cats, or more, you instinctively know how strong their personalities can be. But no matter what her preferences are, you can probably tell which style of playtime is best suited to your adult cat!
So, be sure to keep a variety of different types of games and toys around the house—especially the ones your sweetheart seems to enjoy the most. If your kitty likes catnip, feel free to add this in—but wait until she's at least 6 months old, and talk to your vet if she has existing health problems.
Like kitties, adult cats should get the chance to play for about 10-15 minutes at least twice per day. Your adult kitty may need more or less than this depending on her health status, age, and other factors.
Do you have a multi-cat household? Hopefully, this means your felines will naturally like to scramble around together! As long as things stay safe and appropriate, you should encourage this behavior with your adult cats.
But be sure to join in on the fun, too, since this promotes healthy bonding between you and your little lion (or lions).
What Do Cats Like to Play With?
Believe it or not, you don't need to invest in a bunch of fancy toys to keep your kitty engaged. Most cats like simple toys (even DIY objects made with common household objects) that give them the chance to use their bodies in a natural instinctual way. Think:
These innate physical activities can be achieved through something as advanced as an interactive cat toy or as simple as a feather on the end of a string. As long as the toy is safe for your kitty to use (e.g., doesn't pose a major choking hazard and won't hurt her claws) then the sky really is the limit!
Fun Games for Cat and Kitten Friends
You'd be amazed at the games cats can play! Here are a few kitty-tested and approved activities:
A lot of cats like playing hide-and-seek…and when you prance around your home playing this game with her, you may be surprised by how much you love it still, too!
2. Playtime with feather and string
This may be one of the best ways to reward your kitty with a sense of being “on the hunt.” A feather looks a lot like her natural prey. Plus, this toy is easy to make yourself!
3. A good old carton or box
Did you get a package in the mail recently? Save that box and let her hide inside it, or try throwing a favorite toy into it, too. Cats love the feeling of security and privacy boxes provide. Just make sure there aren't any hazards (staples, loose tape, packing peanuts, etc.)
4. Blow bubbles
Buy a bottle of pet-safe bubble mix and have it! You'll love watching your cat bat and jump at the bubbles. This activity is great for engaging her muscles and stretching her joints.
5. Fun with paper bags
Much like cardboard boxes, paper bags often pique the interest of kitties. Whether large or small, your kitty may love to jump or crawl inside one. Could be a great addition to a hide-and-seek game! Just don't place it somewhere a person may step on, and stick with paper—not plastic (which she can easily chew and choke on).
6. Crumpled paper
You can crumple up some spare paper for a lightweight ball she can toss or bat around. It also makes a satisfying sound that can increase her interest. Just be sure to supervise her while she's playing with it, and throw it away when she's done.
Yes, you can find cats who like to play fetch! Choose any interesting toy that she likes and is lightweight enough for her to carry in her mouth or bat back to with her paws.
8. Interactive puzzles
Interactive puzzles (easy to buy online and in pet stores) often feature mazes, puzzles, or even built-in treat rewards that stimulate your kitty's senses and challenge her mind as well as her body. These may be great options for unsupervised or solo play, too.
9. Kitty friendly uses of your tablet or smartphone
It's pretty adorable watching a kitty try to “catch” a bug or fish that's crawling across your handheld digital device. Games for cats on tablets and smartphones come with interesting visuals and sounds, and can help kitties work on their hand-eye coordination to boot.
10. Use a laser pointer
Laser pointers are simple to use, and they're great for stimulating your kitty's natural hunting instincts. But please exercise caution when using this toy, as you could harm your little one if you point the beam directly in her eyes.
How to End a Play Session With Your Feline
Every moment of playtime with your kitty matters, but especially the tail end (no pun intended). The reason is that if you end your playtime on a flat or even unpleasant note, this may discourage her from playing with you again in the future.
Here are a few tips on how to end playtime with your kitty in a way that will positively reinforce playtime as a good thing:
- Let your kitty grab, touch, and catch the toy object. She deserves the satisfaction of “catching” the “prey”.
- Give plenty of positive reinforcement through verbal and physical affection, or even a special tasty treat every now and then!
- Be sure to clean up any toys that your sweetie shouldn't be around unsupervised, like strings.
Important Tips for Gameplay Safety
As we've learned, it doesn't take much to pique the interest of a playful pet. But not all cat toys were created equal. Here are some common toys or materials that may be harmful to your kitty's health:
- Any toy that is small enough for her to swallow or has small parts that can fall off
- Toys with batteries are okay, but make sure your kitty can't get the batteries out
- Dental string and ribbon—these can be a major choking hazard
- Paper clips, rubber bands, and other common household items not intended for kitty use (stay tidy for everyone's benefit!)
Lastly, be mindful around any toys made with material your kitty could get her claws stuck in.
FAQs About Kitty Playtime!
How do I know if my cat is bored?
Your cat may be bored if she over-grooms, frequently fights with or chases other animals, overeats, ruins furniture or “causes trouble,” or generally just seems glum.
Do cats like to play with humans?
Most cats like to play with humans, especially if humans offer fun and interesting toys. Playtime also promotes healthy bonding between animals and their human carers.
How long should you play with your cat?
You should play with your cat for about 10 to 15 minutes, two to three times per day.
At what age do cats stop playing?
Cats tend to lose interest in high-energy games at around 5 months old, but many cats still like to play well into adulthood. Just because you're cat is older doesn't mean you should stop offering her play activities. The trick is to find something she's interested in and offer it daily.
Do cats need lots of attention?
Most cats need and in fact have better health when provided with ample attention from their human parents. Indoor cats may need even more attention than cats who go outside, simply because they have less novel stimulation.
Don't let their stoicism and regal nature fool you—kitties can be super playful! If you're a cat owner, you probably are well aware of this fact already.
So, whether you have a household of animals or are thinking about heading to the animal shelter for a new four-legged family member, be prepared to make play a regular part of your day!
And if you have any fellow pet owners, be sure to share this article with them, too, so they'll never be out of ideas for safe and fun kitty playtime.
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