Interactive play will be fun for both you and your cat. It may seem obvious how to play with your cat, but here are some tips to make it safe, and as exciting and natural for your cat as possible…
- Employ your cat’s cunning! Remind yourself of those hunting instincts that play is designed to mimic (‘detect – stalk – catch’). This means your game should include hiding places for your cat to creep up on the toy and stage an AMBUSH – either use the furniture you already have, or use cardboard boxes, bags, pillows etc as temporary hiding places. Cats love to employ stealth and cunning!
- Toy movements should mimic prey – which will move, stop, start, scurry, creep and flutter. Don’t keep the toy moving non-stop, but provide pauses for your cat to figure out its next move. If you keep the toy moving, your cat may still charge around after it, but it’s good if you can add some mental challenge to the game by providing more variety. Vary the speed at which the toy moves. When using bird-type toys, allow it to land sometimes rather than keeping it constantly in the air where it can’t be caught
- To stimulate a cat’s hunting instincts, move the toy across or away from a cat’s vision. Remember the toy is prey – prey does not approach an enemy so don’t flick the toy towards your cats face! This will turn a game into a battle, which is far less enjoyable
- Stimulate your cat’s senses – cats should see, hear and feel a toy if possible. Include some toys that produce a squeeky or rustling sound. A cat uses its sensitive whiskers when catching prey; the physical act of pouncing on a toy is rewarding because the cat can feel the prey they have caught
- Success is vital! Play time will be miserably frustrating if you don’t let your cat catch the toy during and/or at the end of the game. No one likes a game they never win! Let your cat catch the toy for short periods during a game, then let it wiggle free
- Rather than end a game abruptly, slow the game down towards the end, and give your cat one final successful catch! Either let your cat keep the toy for a bit, to chew and bite it, or provide a replacement (e.g. catnip mouse) to allow this
- Avoid lasers. Although your cat may reliably run around madly after a laser light, a spot of light is not an adequate ‘prey’ toy. Your cat will be trying desperately to catch the light, only to constantly fail. Additionally, there is nothing to hear and no physical thing to actually catch – producing escalating frustration for poor kitty! The kind of manic, non-stop attempts to catch the light may be amusing, but is a sign of frustration. Also, cats do not hunt by chasing prey until they finally catch it through exhaustion, or give up because they themselves are exhausted. Instead, they use their mind, cunning, stealth, and a variety of movements to catch prey – these are not expressed when chasing laser lights. Cats can also become reactive to ANY flashing lights, glinting, reflections and shadows, producing behavioural problems.