A woman playing with her cat

How to Play With Your Cat: 9 Ways to Tickle Their Hunting Instinct

Adopting a cat could be one of the best decisions you will ever make in your life, but it is also not one to be taken lightly. Not only will you have to feed them, make sure they are healthy, and groom them, but you will also need to play with them to create a strong bond.

If you’re new to the whole cat-caretaking thing, chances are you don’t know how to play with your cat. Even if you do understand the basics, we know that most of you have a busy daily schedule, so you may be wondering how you are going to fit daily cat play sessions into it. You’ll find the answer here in this article.

You’ll be surprised at how simple it really is. Two play sessions that are 15 minutes long each is all that it takes to give your cat all the exercise she needs. And there is a variety of toys that you can give to your cat to keep her busy while you are not at home.

When you are at home, engaging in regular play sessions will not only prevent the development of behavioral problems but will also keep your cat’s mind occupied and her muscles toned.

We will tell you how to play with your cat in a way that will be fun and entertaining for both of you. In this article, you will learn how to figure out which games can be used to spark the interest of your cat.

Also, we will explain further about the role that daily activities play in the cat’s overall health and the best time of the day for interactive play.

Why Is It So Important to Play with Your Cat?

Cats are social animals that like to be involved in their owner’s life. If they feel like they are not getting enough attention, they can become depressed and develop some behavioral problems. Your cat may become angry and destructive towards others and the furniture. She may even start using the floor as her litter box.

Another reason is that if there is a lack of activities, indoors-only cats can easily become obese. That can lead to many other serious health problems. Obesity can shorten your cat’s lifespan by several years

cat-playing-with-toys on the floor

None of these problems will haunt you if you spend at least 15 minutes a day playing with your cat. Your cat will see that you care about her. All the interactive games will help her bond with you. Playing games will keep your cat’s muscles toned, so you don’t have to worry about obesity.

Also, owners who have troubles with cats who don’t want to sleep at night could benefit from initiating a play session just before bed. This will exhaust your cat, and you should be able to have a meow-free night.

9 Clever Games Devised to Entice Your Cat

Cats are born to be hunters. Their drive for hunting prey is high, and because of that, they are not very interested in playing alone. The goal of interactive play is to satisfy your cat’s natural needs to be a predator. The cat’s attention will be intrigued when she sees her toy moving in a prey-like manner more than if it’s just lying on the floor. To make play session more appealing to your cat, try to make them look like a real hunting adventure. To provide an enjoyable experience for your cat, every play session should have these elements:

  • Search
  • Stalk
  • Chase
  • Pounce
  • Catch
  • Manipulate

By following these steps, you will intrigue the natural urges of your cat, and even older cats that are not so into playing won’t be able to resist. Catnip toys, mice, feathers, ping pong balls, and fishing rod toys with different objects attached to them all make great choices.

You can also make cat toys from some easily-found household items like boxes, paper bags, paper balls, and strings.

Cat toys are specially designed to be appealing to your cat’s senses. But depending on your cat’s personality, it may take some time to find the perfect toy. Don’t worry; you won’t soon run out of options. We have listed some of the most interesting games you can play with your cat to keep the both of you entertained.

A kitten playing with a toy in a cat tree

Game #1: String Toy

This type of toy is easy to make at home, or you can buy it at the pet store. If you are making this at home, find a piece of string and attach your cat’s toy to it.

You can use toy mice, a feather, or a small ball. If you don’t have any toys, you can also try dragging only the string along the floor; some cats will find this interesting.

So, how do you play with your cat using a string toy? It is fairly easy. Just imagine that that is a real mouse at the end of your string and try to predict its movements.

  • Drag the toy across the floor slowly at first until you are sure that you’ve got your cat’s attention.
  • Let your cat search, stalk, and chase the toy before you let her catch it. Vary the toy’s moving speed at intervals.
  • Always move it away from your cat; a real mouse would never run towards a cat.
  • Dangle the toy in front of your cat and let her catch it and paw at it. The goal is to make the game as hard as possible, but your cat should be able to win. Let your cat catch her prey a few times during the play sessions. Otherwise, your cat may become bored and discouraged.
  • End the game slowly so your cat would be able to cool off, just like you would after exercising.
  • When the play session is over, give your cat some treats for her good behavior.
  • Always put away toys after play sessions. By doing so, you minimize the chances of any injury if the toy gets swallowed.
  • It is best to mix the toys every couple of days, so your cat won’t get bored playing with the same ones.

Game #2: Fishing Rod Toys

This kind of toy will encourage your cat to jump up in order to catch her prey. Fishing rod toys can have a fabric mice, a feather, a fish, or some other types of toy that are easy to bite and paw at attached to their end.

It is up to you to find out what kind of prey entices your cat the most.

  • Dangle the toy in front of your cat. Let her jump and paw at the toy.
  • You can also drag the toy across the floor and make your cat run after it.
  • Allow your cat to catch her prey. Make this play session hard, but possible for your cat to win.
  • Play with your cat for at least 15 minutes or until she loses interest.
  • After the game is over, reward your cat with treats for her good behavior.
  • Put toys away after the play session, because your cat can get tangled up in the string or swallow a small piece of fabric from the toy.

Game #3: Feather Teasers

This type of toy is specially made to look like a bird prey to a cat.

There are many different types.

  • To play with a feather teaser, choose a spacious area that doesn’t have a lot of furniture so your cat won’t get injured while jumping.
  • To attract your cat’s interest, try to mimic the movements of an injured bird.
  • You can also let it dangle in front of your cat, or you can raise it to encourage your cat to jump up.
  • Don’t end the game abruptly. Let your cat cool off and then give her some treats for a job well done.
  • Always remove feather toys when you are not there to play with your cat; they can be dangerous if ingested.

Game #4: Kicking Game

This game satisfies the cat’s natural instinct to pull the prey to her belly while she is on her back, bite it, and kick it with her back legs. The best toys to use are catnip-filled mice or birds, or other medium-sized toys.

The toy should be bigger than the ones you used for the string and fishing rod games; if it’s too small or flimsy, your cat won’t be able to unleash the full power of her kicks on it.

Most cats automatically catch and kick at the toy right after it is thrown at them, but depending on your cat’s personality, you may need to first warm her up a little bit by letting her chase the toy around. Else, she may not be interested enough to kick at it.

Game #5: Laser or Flashlights

This is the favorite game of many cats, and it is a great choice for owners who can’t run around the house to play with their cats.

  • Simply point the laser at the floor and enjoy while your cat runs in circles trying to catch the small beam of light.
  • Don’t go too fast because your cat will get discouraged with her inability to catch the light and switch to another more catchable toy before the play session is over.
  • You can also move the laser light higher up the walls to make your cat jump up. Just make sure that there aren’t any objects nearby that can cause injury.
  • Avoid pointing the laser or flashlight directly into your cat’s eyes.

Game #6: Fetch

Although this game is commonly associated with dogs, cats also like to play fetch. Pick a smaller toy that your cat can carry in her mouth. Throw it across the room.

In most cases, the cat will run to the toy and bring it back for another throw. When this happens, reward your cat with a treat. If it doesn’t happen, simply go and pick the toy up yourself and throw it to your cat again.

Game #7: Hide and Seek Game

This game helps cats practice their predatory skills. How many times have you found your cat waiting beneath the table or the bed or behind the sofa for you to pass by so she could pounce on you? Probably so many times that you already know all of her favorite hiding places.

To stop your cat from attacking your legs, next time throw her a toy when you are passing by her hiding place. This will not only help your cat exercise her natural instinct but will also keep your legs safe and scratches-free.

Game #8: Hiding Boxes

If you don’t want to spend more money on toys and you have a box that you don’t need, you can turn it into a cat’s hiding place. Cats love to hide, and you can always place some of their favorite toys inside the box and let her play there.

  • Place the box inside a room in which your cat feels the most secure.
  • Make sure that the box is large enough for your cat to get comfortable in it.
  • Make an exit and let your cat explore her new hiding place.
  • Don’t rush your cat in; let her feel relaxed enough around the box to climb in herself.

Game #9: Crumpled Paper

You can make interesting cat toys from common household items. Just crumple a piece of paper and turn it into a ball. Cats love the sound of crinkling paper, and your cat will enjoy running around after the ball.

Let your cat catch the paper ball and wrestle it. Just make sure that your cat doesn’t eat any of it. When the play session is over, throw it in a trash can.

Other than the ones we’ve mentioned above, there is also a number of environment enriching toys that will keep your cat’s mind and body occupied when you are not at home. For example, puzzle toys will keep your cat entertained and reward her with a treat. Scratching posts will keep your cat’s claws trimmed. A cat tree will indulge your cat’s climbing needs.

Playing with Cats of Different Age

Playing with a kitten and playing with an older cat are two very different things. Kittens are curious and full of energy. Usually, they will start to play with or without you.

On the other hand, when you have an older cat who doesn’t have the same amount of energy as before, sometimes it can be hard to get her interested in the game. But you must still try to play with your older cat.

Tree for cat

Older, spayed/neutered, and indoors-only cats are at a higher risk of getting overweight. To keep your cat healthy and strong, you should play with her every day. It is recommended that you play with your cat twice a day for 15 minutes. The best time to do so is in the morning and the evening when cats are at their most playful. Modify the games so they will better match the cat’s physical abilities based on their life stage.

When you are playing with a kitten, it is important to teach her to behave nicely from the start. You should discourage any attempts at scratching, biting, or clawing because these can become big problems as the kitten grows up. Play with your kitten as much as you can and reward nice behavior with some treats.

On the other hand, it may seem like your older cat only wants to spend the rest of her days lounging on her favorite sofa and that she is no longer interested in toys and games, but that isn’t the case. Sure, she doesn’t have the same amount of energy as before, but she can still benefit from a good play session. Just keep in mind that you will need to adapt the intensity of the play sessions to your cat’s energy level.

Wrap Up

Playing daily with your cat will strengthen the bond between the two of you while also preventing the development of behavioral problems that can occur when a cat is bored and feels like she isn’t getting enough attention. This is also the only way to keep your indoor cat active and in shape.

We hope that now you have a better idea of how to play with your cat and that you’ve learned a couple of new games that you can try during your next play session. There is a variety of different toys in pet stores, and you can always make a cat toy by yourself.

Which one of the different ways to play with a cat we’ve explained above seems to entice your cat the most? If you know of some other interesting cat games, please share them with us and our readers in the comments section below.

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