Why Play Is Important for Your Cat
The regal cat seems to be a creature of leisure — she certainly doesn’t run around the yard with wild abandon like her canine counterparts. Many cats are quite content to sit on a windowsill all day long, taking naps and watching the world go by. But that doesn’t mean cats don’t need or enjoy playing games with their owners. Of course they do! Cats love to be mentally and physically stimulated and they love to spend time playing with their owners.
When it comes to cats, however, play isn’t just about fun and games. For cats in the wild, the act of play is actually a serious business that helps kittens learn important survival skills like stalking, chasing and trapping prey. Even if your cat never ventures outside your home, this basic instinct to hunt can remain strong, which is why it is important to give our feline family members the opportunity to express this natural behavior through play.
Along with satisfying your cat’s natural instincts, play is important to helping keep your pet healthy and happy. Play provides important exercise for cats, especially those that live exclusively indoors. Regular play can help keep your kitty active and help her maintain a healthy weight. Interactive play between you and your cat may also help prevent some behavior problems that can arise from boredom. Finally, play is simply a great way to interact and bond with your cat.
Toys for the Finicky FelinePlaying with your cat doesn’t mean that you need to purchase an arsenal of bright, shiny toys to keep her busy and occupied. Locating a few simple, inexpensive toys in different places around your home can help turn your living space into a purr-fect playground for your favorite feline.
It’s important to check that all toys you select are safe and appropriate for your particular pet. Be sure that any toy your cat plays with is large enough that it cannot be swallowed. Make sure as well that the toys do not have any small parts, strings, buttons or bells that a cat might mistake for a treat and try to eat.
Many cats love to bat and pounce on moving toys and a simple toy with a feather or other object at the end of a long wire will please many cats. With a little help from you, your cat will feel like she’s hunting prey. Drag the end of the toy on the floor for your cat to chase, varying the speed and direction. Don’t make catching the toy too easy, but let her win once in a while to make her feel like a good hunter. Be sure to praise her, too!
Many cats love rolling toys that are lightweight and easy to bat around. Feeder toys, which dispense food treats as the cat plays, are great devices that encourage play by rewarding your cat for her hard work. Toys filled with catnip can also keep some cats occupied for hours.
Not all fun cat toys have to be bought from a store. Wads of paper, as long as they are not too small to be swallowed, are great for cats to bat around. Some cats love the simplicity of a paper sack or cardboard box that they can crawl into and use as a hiding place. You can even cut some holes into the bag or box for added interest and extra fun.
To keep your cat interested in play, put her toys away when playtime is over. If a toy is always available, your kitty might become bored with it. Try to set aside at least 15 minutes each day for interactive play with your cat — and if she wants to play more, indulge her! If she doesn’t seem interested in playing with you, don’t force her. If you have more than one cat, make sure all of the cats have an equal opportunity to participate in the activity.
Encouraging play with your cat is an important part of keeping her happy and healthy. By helping your cat remain playful you not only help her have fun but also improve her muscle tone, agility and stamina — and strengthen the bond that you already share.
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