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Play with your Cat! (the right way)

Do you have a cat who just won’t play, no matter what you try? Well, you’re not alone! The Cat Connection regularly hears from customers frustrated with kitty’s unwillingness to play with her vast collection of cat toys. We get it. It’s the worst.

But don’t despair! Instead, get kitty playing in no time with these tips from the Cat Connection’s cat pros.

Play is necessary. Your domestic cat is still very much a wild feline and has many of the same needs. Regular, fulfilling play sessions channel your cat’s natural hunting instincts, keeping the cat happy, healthy and content. Without play, your cat will find another way to express her desire to stalk – pounce – kill – eat, and it probably won’t be to your liking!

Choose the right toys for your cat. There are more cat toys than ever on the market, but every cat is different! In general, look for toys that mimic the look, feel and movement of her natural prey (mice, birds, bugs, etc.). We’re a huge fan of interactive toys – those that are on a rod and require a human participant. Toys that do not require a person, like balls, toy mice, catnip and puzzle toys, are good to have on hand and can be delightful, but they likely won’t get your cat’s motor running like an intense session with an interactive toy.

Be the hunted. Put your acting chops to good use, because you’ll need them to convince kitty that her toy is a living, breathing mouse. Move the toy as though it were an animal. For mice and insect toys, run along the wall and from object to object. Jump in and out of boxes, and don’t be afraid to hide from your cat’s view for a few seconds, just like a mouse would do. For birds, flutter from perch to perch, and make hopping motions upon landing. The more realistic your depiction of her prey is, the more likely your cat is to engage. And remember that sitting, waiting and watching are part of the cat’s natural hunting process. Just because she’s not madly chasing after the toy does not mean she’s not engaged.

Meet your cat on her level. Every cat is an individual with a unique way of engaging with the world, so you must learn your cat’s own play style. Some cats love a high-octane, frantic chase, while others prefer a few well placed pounces from above. Age, health, weight and breed will factor into how she plays and for how long. Keep your expectations in check and be patient as you coax her into becoming the best huntress she can be.

Reward. Once your cat is worn out, be sure to reward her with a treat, preferably one completely made of meat. Not only will this signal that the play session is over, but feeding her a meaty treat will satisfy the kill/eat part of this natural rhythm.

Safety first. Though most cat toys are designed to be safe for your feline, many, particularly interactive toys, require supervision. Once the play session is at an end, put the toy away. Not only will this create anticipation when your cat sees you with the toy, but it will keep her from eating it – with the potential for horrific consequences – when you’re not watching. Be sure to regularly inspect all toys for rips, tears or other breakage and discard any that pose a safety risk for your cat.

From the sweetest lap cat to the fiercest mouser, the domestic cat is at her core a hunter. Playing enriches your cat’s life while simultaneously satisfying the most natural of her behaviors. So try these suggestions with your cat and be sure to let us know how you do!

And in the meantime, check out the Cat Connection’s vast collection of cat toys. We’re sure you’ll find something your cat will love!

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