Playtime, specifically interactive playtime, allows many benefits, including exercise for the mind and body, relief of boredom and stress, prevention of unwanted behaviors, and an opportunity to bond and build trust with your favorite feline companion.
Cats are often considered to be low maintenance pets. While they may not need to be regularly walked outside like their canine counterparts, they still need consistent, daily exercise and opportunities to tap into their natural hunting instincts. In fact, exercise is critical for their physical and mental health. Most cats will sleep up to 16 hours a day, and more than 50 percent of cats are overweight.
Engaging in consistently scheduled play time with your cat will help them maintain a healthy body weight, keep their mind sharp and entertained, and also establish a stronger connection between you and your pet. The good news is that implementing playtime into your daily life is inexpensive, does not require a lot of time, and will be fun for humans and cats alike!
The goal for interactive playtime with your cat is 10-15 minutes, a few times each day. Kittens and younger cats are more inclined to initiate activities and are often more easily amused and enthusiastic about play than older cats may be. Older and obese cats may need to gradually work up to extended playtime and interest.
Try a few minutes each day, experimenting with various toys and activities, and then building from there.
Just as humans tend to get bored repeating the same activities over and over, cats need a variety of options to stay interested. If you rotate toys in and out every week or so, cats will think it’s a shiny brand new toy every time!
Some favorites include feather toys, which are often attached to a stick or pole; motorized or mice attached to a string; laser pointers and flashlights; and balls with jingling bells.
Toys don’t need to be store bought; in fact, cats may get the most enjoyment out of things you can find discarded or lying around the house. Empty paper bags, boxes, and toilet paper rolls; crumpled pieces of paper and pieces of string are examples of every day items that could be turned into great fun for your kitty.
When playing with your cat, you will want to tap into her inner predator challenging her, but also setting her up for success. Feather toys on poles provide a good imitation of a wounded bird, and obviously mice toys on strings will mimic rodent prey. Instead of focusing on an aerobic workout for your cat, focus on providing a nature-like hunting experience.
Allow her to stalk prey by keeping the toy close to the ground and moving it in and out of sight. Vary the speed and movement to keep her engaged. Most importantly, it always allow her to ultimately capture her prey so that she builds confidence.
If the toys are only brought out for playtime, they are special for your kitty and also are easier to rotate. However, safety is a very good reason to keep toys out of your cat’s reach when you are not there to supervise playtime. Feathers and string can be a choking hazard.
While it is important to engage in interactive playtime with your cat, it is also a good idea to have safe, solo toys available around the house for when your cat is left alone.
Climbing towers and scratching posts will encourage cats to climb and also help naturally wear down their claws. You can purchase towers, cat trees, or even build your own cat jungle gym to allow your domestic hunters to pounce from perch to perch.
Puzzles are another effective toy to have available for your cat to keep her amused and cognitively challenged when you are not home. Many puzzles are made to hold treats that your cat must figure out how to retrieve. Other ideas to capture your pet’s interest would be placing a cat-proofed aquarium or a bird feeder outside a window in your cat’s range of sight.
In addition to providing additional exercise and tapping into your feline’s innate predatory abilities, having designated spaces for your cat to climb, play, and scratch, destructive behaviors will be prevented. Since your cat will have plenty of desirable forms of entertainment, she will not have to seek out her own.
Consistent, daily interactive playtime and having a home that encourages solo activities will lead to a healthier and happier life for your cat. Interactive play will counteract the sedentary and slothful life that befalls many pets.
Playtime will encourage maintaining a healthy weight and stimulated mind. Exercise also helps to relieve anxiety and aggression, which will thereby relax your kitty. Ultimately, this will create a strong relationship and bond between you and your pet, and with others in your household.