Whether he's pouncing, chasing, climbing or jumping, let's face it, your cat enjoys playing. Play time may be synonymous for "fun time," but it actually has its roots in your cat's predatory instincts. Plus, learning new ways to play can help your cat exercise and learn important social behaviors. Read on for five ways to engage your cat in some fun play time activities that help him tap into his inner feline.
The Toy Chase
Being hunters at heart, cats love to chase after moving toys. Choose a toy that's attached to a string and drag it along the ground to mimic the movements of a prey animal. Then, watch your cat stalk, run after and pounce on the toy just as he would in the wild. Allow your cat to catch the toy prey every so often so he won't get overstimulated or frustrated. And remember, don't allow your cat to play with toys on a string without supervision. Ingesting the string could cause an intestinal blockage.
Up to Bat
When cats are alone, they still have the urge to play and will happily do so with any small objects that they can get their paws on. Prevent boredom when you aren't around with some toys your cat can bat around.
Toys come in all shapes and sizes, so get a few to see which ones your kitty prefers. Toys should be about the size of a ping pong ball – small enough for your cat to grab with their mouth and large enough that they will not swallow the toy. You might even want to consider toys with bells inside. Noise-making toys will keep your cat's attention as they bat it around, encouraging further play.
Cats enjoy wrestling with their toys, just as they would if they were to catch a prey animal or play with another cat. Rather than allowing your cat to grab at your hands or feet, offer him something acceptable like a stuffed cat toy for him to grab and kick at with his back feet. Choose something that is almost as big as your cat so he can use it as his wrestling "partner." Look for toys that are filled with catnip, or spray toys with catnip oils, to help encourage your cat to lick and kick at the toy.
The Kitty Climb
Cats have a natural instinct to climb up vertical surfaces, according to Pam Johnson-Bennett of the Cat Behavior Associates in Nashville, Tennessee. Consider installing carpeted shelves for your cat to climb. Or, place tall cat condos in areas near windows where your cat can watch birds or simply enjoy the view.
You can also create an obstacle course for your cat to run through, using things like cat tunnels, paper bags, boxes and other small items for him to jump over, into or through. Lead him through the course with a laser pointer so that he can get the hang of what to do.
The Treat Hunt
Bring out your cat's inner predator by making hunting for his food part of his daily play. Purchase a puzzle feeder that you can fill with your cat's favorite treats or a food like – with a perfect mix of kibble and shredded meaty pieces – so that playtime results in a satisfying meal.
You can make a low-cost version of a puzzle feeder from a toilet paper roll. Fold in one end of the roll, fill it with kibble, fold in the other end and cut a hole in the bottom for the treats to fall out of when your cat rolls the toy around. Then, hide the feeder in one of your cat's favorite spots so he can hunt for them.