By: Talin Seta Shahinian
When co-existing with your indoor cat, you might be lulled into thinking they’re just a docile furbaby. The kind who sleeps a lot, bug you for food, and wants your attention-on their terms, of course! Don’t be fooled; they’re really little house panthers or mini-lions. Cats are consummate hunters, and no matter how long they’ve been indoors or how domesticated they seem, their hunting instincts remain. Felines need play to stimulate the part of them that still longs for the hunt! They also get bored, just like humans, and require various activities to enjoy.
Fishing For Fun
Playing with your cat is also an excellent way to bond with them, and studies have shown that cats are far more engaged by interactive play with their human than by passive play with a toy that doesn’t move. Classic fishing pole-type toys are a favorite of many cats. They’re comprised of a wooden or plastic dowel with a string attached. At the end of the line are feathers, bells, strips of fabric, or other baubles to attract their attention. Just ensure the toy you pick doesn’t have any small pieces that aren’t securely attached to avoid a swallowing hazard.
It’s up to you to make the toy intriguing by swooshing it through the air, dragging it across the floor, or making it dance around a corner. Don’t make it too easy for your feline friend to catch their prey, or they’ll quickly become bored, but do let them occasionally win to keep them engaged. Keep the toy just out of reach so that they have to jump up or pounce to get it. Don’t be concerned if they stop moving and crouch down. This is their natural stalking instinct kicking in. They’re merely studying their prey before they leap into action!
Crazy For Catnip
Toys like mice or little pillows made of fabric and stuffed with catnip can also keep your kitty entertained if you’re busy or out of the house. Not all cats respond to catnip. About one-third don’t, due to their genetics. Also, kittens under three months old either don’t react at all or show an aversion. Nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip, causes a reaction in the cats susceptible to its effects. For those cats, it triggers a happy, euphoric effect.
You can also get loose catnip to sprinkle directly on the carpet, a bare floor, on a cat bed, on any of their soft toys, or their scratching post. If you shake out a little pile of catnip for them to play in, they’ll roll around in it and most likely spazz out in an entertaining way due to the catnip’s hallucinogenic effect. However, if they eat it, instead of just smelling it, it has a mellowing effect. Either way, the effects tend to wear off in an hour or so, give or take, depending on your kitty.
If your kitty is motivated by food, and most cats are, you can get them a toy ball that dispenses food. The plastic ball opens up for you to fill with dried kibble or treats, then you latch it closed. It contains small holes, and as your cat bats it around, bits of their food or treats come out, which keeps them motivated to play. You can start by tossing it to them to get their attention, and they’ll probably take it from there. It’s an excellent toy to give them when you’re unable to play with them.
Variety And Frequency Of Play
Whatever methods you use or toys you provide your cat, make sure to rotate them to keep your cat interested and put some of them away between playtimes so they don’t lose their novelty. Just don’t use passive toys too often or entirely replace interactive play with you. They really benefit from time with you, and you may find it a stress relief too. Instead of turning on the TV right after work, spend a little time playing with your cat. The joy of bonding with your feline friend will do you both a world of good.
The other benefit to these playtimes is that they get your kitty up and moving around, keeping them active and healthy. This regular exercise can contribute to their longevity and their quality of life. Even 15 minutes a day of playtime with them can have a significant impact on their mood. It may help cut down on any destructive behaviors around the house, usually born of boredom. It also tires them out, which could curb the 3:00 a.m. zoomies; when some cats take to running around the house and singing the song of many meows.
Playtime On The Cheap
You don’t need to rely on only store-bought toys for your cat. They’ll chase a rolled-up ball of paper. Their love of boxes is legendary, especially one that’s a bit too small for them, as they like to squeeze themselves into cozy spaces. They also love empty cardboard paper towel or toilet paper rolls. Don’t give them rolls with the paper still on them, though, because they might move on to the rolls still on your dispensers, and you’ll come home to toilet paper pooled on your bathroom floor or paper towel bits all over your kitchen.
Your Partner In Cat Care
If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We are a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Find information for scheduling on our www.purplecatvet.com website. You can also look on our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!