How to Play with Your Cat: Unleash the Hunter

cat playing with cat toy

Playtime provides important exercise for our cats and is a great bonding experience too. As a cat owner sometimes I found it challenging to play with my cats Teemo and Arya as they have grown up. When they were kittens they were excited to play with anything. But as adults, it has been harder to get them excited about playtime. In the next few minutes I will share some of the strategies that get my cats excited during playtime.

Why is Play Important

Before we get into the actual strategies it is important to understand what play means for your cat. When Cats play it is similar to hunting in the wild. In the wild cats spend about 45 minutes to 3 hours on a single prey. They stalk, pounce, kill and eat. Considering cats typically require more than one meal a day, that is a lot of time spent hunting. As a result it is important to get toys that look, feel, smell, and move like prey. Your cats are more likely to be interested in it.

How to Use the Cat Toys

Toys like a wand toy with feathers, a catnip toy that looks like mice, puzzle toys, a ball, or a laser toy are good options. I will focus on the toys that require human interaction.
  • Wand Toy

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    cat toy
    The first toy is a wand toy with a feather attached. With all toys you want to try to imitate prey. To imitate a mouse you want to keep the toy on the ground, make it twitch or skitter before it tries to escape with a sudden leap or dash. It's okay to have the toy stop from time to time. In the wild a mouse isn’t running all the time. Sometimes they need to stop and rest. If you don’t see a reaction from your cat, sometimes it takes a while for them to warm up. Wild cats don’t jump at the first sight of prey. Cats study prey behavior and pounce at the right moment. Occasionally let your cat catch the toy. This gives them the satisfaction that they have caught their prey. If they hit the toy. Stop moving. In the wild the cat would have injured the prey and possibly immobilized it with a hard smack.

    I find combining this toy with hide and seek helps get your cat even more excited. If you can place a few boxes where the toy can hide behind, curiosity will get to your cats and they will start to chase the toy. With a wand toy you can also mimic bird-like movements. Occasionally send the toy at an upward trajectory and your cats will try to swat at the toy. 
    • Catnip Toy

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      catnip toy

      Toys with catnip also make great toys for your cat to release their pent up energy. Catnip is a plant related to mint and contains an essential oil called nepetalactone. One or two sniffs of that wondrous oil, susceptible felines will begin to lick, chew, and roll around in kitty bliss. Though intense, that bliss is usually short-lived, lasting about 10 minutes for most cats. The euphoria translates into aggressive playfulness. At the same time, it makes others mellow and calm. One thing to note is that not all cats are affected by catnip.

      • Ball

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      Filo Cat Toy
      A ball is great to throw across the room for your cat to chase. If the ball is small enough you can play fetch with your cat. First, ensure that the object is large enough that you cannot accidentally swallow it. Then, toss the object and allow your cat to chase it. You can use food treats to reward your cat for returning the toy. This will help your cat understand the game.
      • Laser Toy

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       petcube play 2

      A laser is also a great way to play with your cat. Just don’t shine the light in your cat’s eyes because it can damage them. You can use a laser pointer or remotely play with your cat from your smartphone with the Petcube Play 2 Camera when you are not home.

      When to Play with Your Cat

      If you have a cat you know they can be quite active at dawn and dusk. Early mornings and early evenings tend to be when cats have the most energy and are more likely to play with you. In the wild this is when cats usually go hunting.

      Having a play session before their meal is ideal. The cats feel accomplished and rewarded for their play. After all, a meal comes at the end of a hunt. I found that scheduling play sessions before a meal has gotten my cats more active.

      How Often to Play with Your Cat

      Ideally, your cat needs at least an hour of active play time daily. This can be broken up into as many episodes of play as you and your cat would like! I try to play with cats Teemo and Arya twice a day for 30 minutes each right before their mealtimes. However, you may need to adjust to your cat’s individual needs. Young kittens are very energetic and need more play time to burn off that kitten energy, while older senior cats may prefer less play time. Try experimenting with different toys and times of day to find out how much play time your cat prefers.

      Rotate Cat Toys

      You want to rotate your cat toys to keep them exciting. Cats get bored easily and want to enjoy variety as much as we do, and rotating toys in and out of circulation will keep things fresh and new. That way your cat will never get tired of their toy collection. And when playtime is over put the toys away. So that each time you bring the toy out your cats are excited.

      Cat Safe Toys

      It is important that toys are made of high quality materials and safe for your cat. Remember, cats swallow things easily. In the past I had a cheap cat toy and Teemo ripped out one of the eyes. He could have accidently swallowed it and had a foreign body obstruction. This could have put Teemo’s life at risk. So be careful with your cat toys and put them away when you are done with playtime to be extra safe.

      Cats value interaction with people. There’s nothing better than getting some playful quality time with their beloved pet parent. Playing with you gives them a chance to get exercise, embrace their hunter instincts and enjoy the kind of sensory enrichment cats crave.
      See a video on how to play with your cat here: 

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      It is important that toys are made of high quality materials and is safe for your cat.

      The Cat Butler