Playing with your cat provides numerous benefits; it fights obesity, limits boredom, and solves cat behavior problems. Besides, many cat owners claim that playing with their cats is fun—if the cat plays along, that is.
How do you play with your cat?
Solo play toys are a great addition to your cat’s play routine, but the real benefit lies in toys that are controlled by you. Unlike fake mice that just sit, toys controlled by an intelligent being (that’s you) with varying speeds, directions, and movements that play off of your cat’s actions. No robotic toy can do that (yet). Cats who play with their owners are also more willing to engage in solo play at other times.
Try different toys and rotate them.
No two cats are alike. Different cats have different preferences. Try several toys to get a glimpse of what sparks your cat’s interest and what doesn’t. A larger variety of toys, both interactive and solo, means that you can rotate them to keep them new and exciting.
Add objects into the playground.
As you play with your cats, you’ll see a huge difference in their interest when playtime occurs on an empty floor or when a box, for example, is placed out in the middle. The box provides some much-needed variation. You move the toy around the box, your cat follows it. You move the toy on top of it, your cat jumps to chase it. Your cat’s curiosity is never allowed to rest. If a cat follows a toy with his gaze and it disappears around a corner, he must follow it to keep it in sight. This comes from your cat’s natural hunting behavior.
Know the timing.
Not all moments are equally ideal for playtime. Remember, it is natural for cats to sleep a lot, and if they do, it’s not because they are lazy. The rhythm of a wild cat follows a specific pattern, which includes napping, hunting, eating, and cleaning, and then napping, hunting…. Do you see where playing belongs in there? Cats are most alert after naps and before meals. Naturally, then, cats tend to get sleepy after eating, so that’s not a good time to beg for their attention. This means that it’s best to feed your cat at specific meal times. If you get used to playing with your cat (and feeding him) at approximately the same time each day, he will catch on to the rhythm and will start to anticipate the play.
Short play sessions help both of you to focus better. Cats are animals with a naturally short attention span. Unlike dogs, cats don’t track their prey for hours and won’t chase it for miles. Apply that knowledge to playing and you’ll see that play sessions as short as five minutes are completely fine for cats. Play works best if repeated several times during the day. Initially, you can play for as long as you can hold your cat’s attention, which can be anything from going after the toy to simply taking a quick glance at it. Don’t be pushy; if you reward your cat with a treat after any action that can be described as “playing” or “almost playing,” he will start to look forward to playtime and his ability to stay focused will increase over time.