Playing with your cat is a great way to bond and have fun in the process. It's also important for their wellbeing and health as well as being key to a kitten's development.
Cats that can freely go outdoors will often engage in hunting activity or will play with fallen leaves or grass blowing in the wind if there is no access to prey. The drive to hunt is not because they are hungry, but because hunting activity – the stalk, pounce, play and kill – releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. It's important that your cat is given lots of opportunity to play to keep them mentally stimulated.
Play is very important for cats, particularly kittens, as it teaches them the skills needed for life and lessons about the world around them. Play is a great way for a cat to use up some of their energy, keep fit and healthy and keep their brain alert and active. The best games encourage cats to stalk, pounce, chase and bat objects with a paw in a safe way.
See also: Behaviour: the importance of play
Toys don’t have to be expensive as even a cardboard box with holes cut into it provides a fun hiding place. A ball of tin foil can make a perfectly adequate toy, as long as the cat can’t swallow it.
Play is more fun if you get involved too – you could use fishing rod toys with feathers on a string to mimic their prey. Allow them to catch and ‘kill’ the toy periodically will stop them getting frustrated. Cats like to win!
Older cats will love playing three or four times a day, while younger cats will be happy to play ten times a day or more.
Very short games of one to two minutes are fine. Swap toys around regularly to keep them interesting, but don’t leave your cat on their own with toys which could be shredded and eaten or ones that they can get tangled in. Check toys regularly for signs of wear, replacing them when needed.
Indoor cats need more entertainment than outdoor cats, so make dinner time more of a challenge by feeding cat biscuits through a puzzle feeder or a plastic drinks bottle, with biscuit sized holes cut into it. The cat will learn that batting the bottle releases a biscuit. It also means that he will take his time eating his food!
Cats love to climb and hide so getting a cat activity centre is a good idea, but a cheaper option is to give your cat some cardboard boxes to play in.
Some cats go mad for the herb catnip. You can buy toys stuffed with dried catnip – give one to your cat and see what he does!
Below are a few make and do projects to make your own cat-friendly toys;
Fantastic fish toy - PDF
Pom-pom toy - PDF
Loopy string toy - PDF
Is your cat displaying inappropriate play behaviour? If you're worried about your cat's actions, watch our video for top tips on how to keep them play safely.
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