When was the last time that you played with your cat? Just like us, cats build relationships through play and they thoroughly enjoy it too!
Play can teach your cat a new skill, such as retrieving, or can simply give a healthy outlet for all that hunting instinct (which can sometimes be redirected inappropiately if not permitted to be expressed.)
Most enjoyable games are based on the simulation of chasing and capturing prey. However, it is essential you are not regarded as a prey animal by your cat! Using toys allows us to keep the cat focused on the object, rather than on moving hands or feet. There is now a vast range of cat toys on the market. These range from small catnip mice to room-height activity centres (ideal for indoor cats.)
There are numerous types of toys available:
Interactive toys: These are either in the form of puzzle-feeders, which intermittently reward the cat with food when playing with the toy, or are designed to stimulate the cat’s interest in moving objects. Some of the best of these have a small ball trapped inside a circular track, which moves alluringly as the cat tries to catch it.
Wands and rods: Wand toys are ideal for play, and are especially good for children to use. These are usually constructed of a length of rod with a long piece of string attached to the end. Feathers or other toys can be tied to the end of the string and these can then be wafted around, while the kitten chases the end. Such toys are excellent for teaching cats to chase and pounce on toys, while keeping hands and feet well out of the equation.
Clockwork and battery operated toys: clockwork mice, spiders and even frogs are now available for your cat’s entertainment. These can offer real fun and activity, as long as they are well supervised. Kitttens may be tempted to pounce of such toys and chew them, so it is essential to check that any plastic or fabric attachments to the toys are securely held in place.
Homemade toys: some of the most effective and best loved toys for cats are cheap and cheerful! Many cats love paper bags, and a bag blown up with a puff of air can keep a cat amused for hours! Cardboard boxes can also provide great climbing frames and places to hide. Lengths of string and large rolled up balls of foil also attract most kittens. However, safety should always be a priority, so never allow your cat to play unsupervised with such objects and make sure they are large enough to prevent swallowing.
Food scattering: ‘Hunting’ for dried complete food can also create fun for cats. Rather than feeding the food in a dish, why not throw the food into the garden, or even around the lounge and allow your cat to search for the scattered pieces. This uses the cat’s natural abilities to hunt and his sense of smell to full advantage, as well as making mealtimes more interesting.
Teaching your Cat to Retrieve.
How easy it is to teach your cat to retrieve will depend on his or her motivation to play and to learn, his confidence and, to some extent, even his or her breed. Orientals and Burmese cats often seem to retrieve naturally, while others may take a little longer. However, carrying prey is a natural behaviour, and many cats can become adept at chasing, picking up and carrying toys, and then bringing them back to their owner to be thrown again. This provides an ideal opportunity for stimulation and exercise, particularly for indoors cats, as hunting games need to be simulated frequently if they are to remain content and happy.