Playing With Your Cat
Playing is an important activity for your cat. When cats are young, play helps to improve coordination. When they're older, play helps to keep your cat active, stimulated, and in shape. Further, when you play with your cat, it helps to create and strengthen the bond between you.
So just how do you play with your cat? If you have a young kitten, chances are you won't need to initiate play time. Your kitten is probably already running around the room chasing after things. When it comes to older cats, however, they may need a little more encouragement. Most cats respond to movement, so toys can be great for play time. Your cat may like chasing after a ball or a soft toy or playing with a cardboard box, crumpled paper, a ball of yarn or catnip toys. Lots of cats also like playing hide-and-seek. There are also fishing toys for cats which have a toy at one end which you move around using a fishing rod. You can even make your own by attaching a toy like a fuzzy mouse to some string. Your cat will no doubt love chasing after the toy and pouncing on it. Not only will this activity be very stimulating for her, it is also a great way to keep her fit.
It is a proven fact that carnivores are among the most intelligent and sociable of all mammals. Theory has it that playing provides a framework for developing survival skills beyond the predatory ones. A few birds play, but playing is rare in cold-blooded vertebrates such as fish, amphibians and reptiles. Joining cats in the playful category are dogs, apes, monkeys, and dolphins.
You must understand cat play from a behavior perspective to prevent or deal with problems that can arise when cats in a multicat household try to play with one another. Depending on each cat's early experiences, each one may prefer different play patterns, and have different ways of initiating, responding to and terminating play.
Carefully observe each cat's play patterns. Recognizing a pattern of increasingly aggressive play or of one cat always being the more initiating or threatening partner may indicate the potential for problems. If one cat is not interested in social play and another is, it is difficult for owners to act as a substitute feline partner for social play without risking unwanted play-motivated aggression problems.
The more playful cat can be distracted with opportunities for other types of play, but this may not decrease her motivation for social play. If the less playful cat tolerates a short bout of social play, the more playful cat can be distracted into other activities before the play becomes annoying. Over time, the more solitary cat may become more sociable and gradually tolerate longer bouts of social play.
Kittens begin their lifetime of play at about three weeks of age. By four weeks, they can wrestle, clasping with the front paws and kicking with the hind legs. This is the precursor to the game of "Rabbit." At five weeks, they are able to perform the "stiff-legged sideways leap." By the sixth week they are able to chase each other and play-groom themselves.
After a kitten reaches five months, the frequency, duration and energy of play begins to decline unless your cat is being spurred on by a like-minded companion. If at all possible, it is good to have a pair of well-matched cats to keep each other fit and energetic (and entertained). In a one-cat household, it is up to the owner to provide playtime to keep the cat healthy. Playing with your cat also strengthens your bonds, helps disperse aggression, reduces fear, builds trust and confidence in shy cats and corrects inappropriate biting and scratching. One reason many cats become obese is that they are kept indoors and left alone for long periods of time with nothing to do but eat and sleep. You'd probably put on some pounds too if you never left the house. Even so, make no mistake: it is much safer for a cat to live indoors. By setting aside playtime, you will provide exercise for both the mind and body of your cat.
Playing with your cat is the best possible way to build up a bond between the two of you. Do you want your cat to think of you as more than someone who is there to provide food, shelter and warmth? Then regular play sessions will go a long way to ensuring that your feline friend sees you as an object of his or her affections, that you are someone to greet when you arrive home.
Playing will help your cat to become confident. Kittens learn how to relate with their siblings and other cats through play, it is their social education, how they learn their place in the world. Help you cat to continue this enlightenment by playing with him.
Also regular play periods, coupled with petting sessions, will get your cat used to human interaction, he will be less likely to shy away and hide, when visitors call.
Playing will help your cat develop his hunting abilities. Hunting is a natural instinct for all cats, a cat confined to indoors usually has little chance to express and develop this instinct. Enjoy some of your play times using an interactive cat toy, the kind with a catnip mouse on the end of a cord are good. Encourage kitty to chase the toy mouse, allow him to pounce for the 'kill'.
Playing will help your cat release aggression. Cats often display aggressive traits through boredom. Tutor your cat not to scratch, bite or attack you with play sessions. Use praise to reward your cat for playing gently, as soon as he shows any sign he is about to use his teeth or claws - end the play session. This will teach your cat that aggressive cat behavior is best directed to his toys, and not you!
Cats need fun in their lives, just like humans need it. Relieve the monotony of eating, snoozing and using the litter tray by putting a bit of fun in your cats life. You will have a happier, more confident and less aggressive kitty. And finally, it is fun for you to play with your cat. A cat is a wonderful pet just to have around the place to admire its beauty and for its company. But how much better for you to enjoy a little fun by playing with your cat. Cat playtime, good for your cat, good for you!
Here's a primer on the four basics types of play:
As stated before, in this game the kitten/cat grabs an object, wrestles it to the ground clasping with the front paws and kicking with the hind legs. This is how a cat would attack a prey of similar size in the wild (in the home, your foot qualifies).
The kitten/cat will leap through the air and swat. This is done for the purpose of capturing the elusive pretend bird. Cats are able to leap five times their height from a standing position. Watching cats play like this is a little like watching a cat ballet.
The kitten/cat makes a scooping motion that imitates little hands pulling up a fish. This is often done with paper wads or little pieces of dry kibble.
The kitten/cat will execute a finely executed pounce. This starts with pawing, stalking, biting, and capturing the object playing the part of the mouse. Sometimes it will look like the cat is treading backwards when suddenly she/he springs forward on the imagined object. This could be a squeeze toy, a furry mouse, or your big toe!