Games to play with your cat

Play is a crucial part of any cat’s life. As domesticated animals, it helps them to build on their natural instincts and mimic behaviours they might display in the wild. Plus it’s great fun for you…

Having a variety of games up your sleeve can really help your cat’s development and ease the bonding process between the two of you.
 

Why do cats need to play?

Play is beneficial for your cat in a multitude of ways and its importance can never be underestimated. First and foremost, play is exercise and with roughly half of all domestic cats reported to be overweight, the need to alleviate the effects of a largely sedentary lifestyle is strong.

By the same token, play relieves boredom. Time moves slowly for our feline friends, so eight hours cooped up on the sofa probably feels like a whole week at our office desks. Particularly if they’re an indoor cat. Mental and physical stimulation helps us shake off the cobwebs of an arduous day, and it’s the same for cats.

On a primal note, play reminds cats of exactly what they are, predators. As domesticated animals, our cats have been left largely unable to fulfil their calling as ruthless hunters, so play helps replicate the scenarios that are hardwired in their DNA.

Play is also a great bonding tool to bind you and your cat together.

 

What are the different types of cat play?

Cat play can be roughly broken down into the following groups:

  • Hiding  
  • Scratching
  • Chasing
  • Food and treat-based
  • Pouncing
  • Interactive


Certain cats will inevitably prefer particular types of game to others, it’s just a question of personality.

You should get a sense for their preference through trial and error, but try and give them all a go. Your cat may be something of an all-rounder.

 

Which games should I play with my cat?

Here are just a few popular variants to get you and your cat in the mood.

Aerial attack: think toys that are attached by string to a stick controlled by you. Wave the toy above your cat’s line of sight, encouraging them to attack with their paws, or leap into the air.

Remember: let your cat win, eventually. While they don’t want it easy, a futile bid will frustrate them and ultimately make them feel inadequate.

Hide and seek: surprisingly enjoyable for all. Duck behind a bed, desk or sofa and wait to be stalked. You can also hide toys or other safe objects around the house.

Remember: switch off and your cat may creep up on you from unexpected vantage points.

Paper chase: crumple a piece of paper and roll it across the floor – the rest takes care of itself. Simple, but remarkably effective.

Remember: cats are very proud of their conquests, don’t be surprised if it’s hard work to get your paper back.

Ping pong: we’re not suggesting unfolding the full-size table, simply bounce a table tennis ball against the floor or wall and watch your cat bounce along with it. Great for cognitive skill development, and very amusing.

Remember: you may get through a lot of balls, cheap ones will do.

Homemade fun: the best things in life are free – as is the case with many DIY kitty games. From dragging pieces of string across the carpet and watching them chase, to letting them loose on empty wool wheels, you don’t need to splash out.

Remember: your DIY efforts haven’t been safety checked as toys, so pay extra attention.

 

When should I not play with my cat?

Like all of us, sometimes cats just aren’t in the mood – and it never pays to goad them into something they’re not keen on.

Forcing them to play against their will could put them off playing altogether, so instead try gently encouraging them with a variety of toys and offering treats as incentives.

Remember, only ever use toys that are safe for cats and clear away once used. Never leave your cat unattended with a toy.

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