When you adopt a cat, you will need to buy essential items like food, bowls and litter boxes. It’s also a good idea to get a few toys for your cat to enjoy. Although cats are well-known for sleeping much of the day, playtime is an important activity for your cat. It helps them to avoid obesity and allows them to safely express their hunting and survival instincts.
Playing with your cat is a great way to bond with them, so don’t be afraid to invest in customizable catnip toys and the like. Toys will encourage them to jump, hunt and pounce, which are important for providing physical activity as well as mental stimulation for your cat.
If you're worried about getting accidentally scratched by your cat while playing, make sure to always use toys they can direct their playful instincts toward rather than you. You should also learn the right way to interact with them safely so you can both have a fun time. Read on to find out the do’s and don’ts for playing with your cat.
Do Use Cat Toys, Not Your Body
Cats have hunting instincts that can be stimulated with balls, plush toys or other similar toys. Just like dogs who chase after thrown balls or plush toys, cats enjoy chasing after small objects that have a lot of movement. You can purchase other cat toys like wand toys, treat-dispensing toys and puzzle toys to stimulate their hunting instincts and exercise their brains. The key is to know what kind of play engages your cat best.
As much as possible, you should avoid using your hands, feet or other body part to play with your cat. Using your fingers or toes to tease and taunt them will encourage them to bite or scratch you, which they can associate with “allowed behavior.” Apart from increasing your risk of injury, this might encourage your cat to act aggresively toward people because you have taught him that it's okay.
Do Switch Out Toys and Don’t Let Your Cat Get Bored
Cats get bored with their favorite toys, so it’s good practice to switch out their toys for new ones. You can usually see signs of boredom if your cat no longer shows the same excitement towards a certain toy. Your cat might also choose to sleep more instead of playing with you.
If your cat is uninterested in playtime, this could also be due to a lack of a reward system. Much like dogs who are encouraged by treats, you can entice your cat to play and keep playing by using treats as a reward. You can give them treats after playtime or purchase toys where you can hide catnip or treats inside to encourage them to play or hunt.
Do Encourage Jumping but Don’t Scare Your Cat
Cats often jump and pounce to help them hunt, but sometimes, they jump for safety, escaping to higher planes where predators can’t reach them. Watching them jump up great distances can be very amusing, and you might want to encourage this action to help them exercise their legs. You can do so by teasing them with toys and raising the toy above their heads and slightly out of reach. You can also wave wand toys around and leave the attached feather on a higher surface to encourage your cat to jump up.
You should never scare your cat in an attempt to get them to jump. It may seem cute and funny to see your cat react in this way, but doing so could make them feel unsafe in their home, and ultimately, unsafe with you. Reserve jumping, running and other physical activities for playtime so your cat has positive associations about their interactions with you.
Do Tap into Your Cat’s Natural Instinct but Don’t Play Rough
Your cat needs to express their hunting skills, so buy toys they can pounce on, chase, shake or bite. Uing toys in such a manner helps your cat release aggression, it’s important to remember not to play too rough. If you’re rough while playing, your cat will mimic this energy and might develop aggressive tendencies. Aside from this, playing too roughly might also make your cat angry and distressed.
Stop or pause playtime if your cat shows signs of annoyance and displeasure. Your cat will swish his tail, swat at your hand or pull away to signal you these feelings. Immediately stop playtime when your cat hisses, growls or has their tail fluffed up.
Do Set Aside Long Play Times and Don’t Let Your Cat Stay Inactive
Cats get bored when there’s nothing to do, which is why they’ll sleep more. But inactivity can lead to obesity and other health concerns, so it’s good to set aside playtime with your cat.
An adult cat typically needs at least one hour of playtime every day, while kittens might require more. You can prepare different kinds of toys to keep your cat engaged and allow them to enjoy some variety. You should also have treats on hand to reward good behavior, and plenty of fresh water so your cat can quench their thirst. If setting aside a full hour of playtime is difficult for your schedule or lifestyle, you can divide this into intervals throughout the day. Four twenty-minute plays a day can be a good alternative.
Cats need stimulation and exercise, which they can get from playtime with you. However, it’s important to learn how to play with them correctly so you don’t reinforce bad behaviors or risk injury to yourself. Learn how to properly play with your cat with the guide above and incorporate playtime into their daily schedule. Doing so will not only benefit your cat’s health and wellness, but you’ll also get the added bonus of bonding with your fur baby.
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