By Veronica Mountain
Most cats have toys, a lot of toys...jingle balls, catnip mice, toys on wands...the list goes on! However, a toy that doesn’t move, or moves in a predictable way, will not keep a cat’s interest for long. That’s where you come in, the hero of our story that will turn a toy alive! All of a sudden your cat is now off its bed, stalking, waiting, and finally rushing in for a tackle.
So how exactly do you get a cat to play? What does play look like? How do you know which toy to choose? Why is play so important?
Let’s start with the why. Playing with your cat offers great exercise and stimulation. It also promotes a healthy weight, helps decrease destructive behaviors and strengthens your bond with your cat. Additionally, because hunting is so ingrained in cats (even domestic house cats), engaging in play allows your cat to practice their genetically predisposed hunting techniques. Doing so will deter your cat from finding his own outlets which could lead to problem behaviors.
Although cats can differ in preferences, you can get most play started with a wand-type toy. My favorite is “Go-Cat Da Bird” and can be found at most pet stores. It is a wand with a string and replaceable feathers on the end. The key is to move the feathers on the ground and through the air in an unpredictable way. Let the feathers stop still and then dart back into action! Most of cat play is stalking. So although they may not be running around your living room for 30 minutes straight, trust me, this process is important and will mentally and physically stimulate your cat! Let your cat watch the toy, rush in for a pounce, and then run back to watch again. Some cats like to watch from above, some from under cover. After some practice, you’ll learn how your cat likes to engage with this toy.
End play sessions with their meal or just by tossing down a few treats where their “prey” was. Feather toys should be safely put away when you are not playing. With your cat’s energy now drained and snack eaten, they will likely groom themselves and fall asleep. Job well done!