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How Do I Play With My Cat? Tips for Playing With Cats

6 Dec 2021.

Playtime is an important part of essential daily cat care for our furry friends. Playing helps cats stay fit and agile and gives them a chance to develop their natural hunting instincts. But every kitty is different when it comes to playtime. Below, Cat in a Flat finds out when and why cats play, and offers tips to help you have fun with your feline friend! 

When do cats like to play?

When or whether a cat enjoys playing depends on a few factors. Young kittens always tend to play a lot more than older cats. As they age, some cats will get more sluggish and sleep more. Some breeds are also particularly lethargic and may not enjoy playing the way others do. 

Your furry friends are usually active during certain times of day. For most felines, this is around dawn and dusk. In the wild, these are the times when their prey would be active too. Hence, Mr Whiskers’ instincts kick in and he wants to play early in the morning or in the evening. These active periods are the best time to play with your cat! 

kittens play

Why doesn’t my cat play?

Wrong cat toys

Cats are finicky at times and it can be tough to figure out what sorts of toys they like. Take a moment to think about your kitty’s personality. Does your cat like to hunt? A feather fishing rod or a laser pointer can mimic the feeling of hunting (and make great Christmas gifts for cats). Is your kitty partial to catnip? A catnip mouse or ball might be perfect for them. Remember that every kitty is different, and take your time to find out which toys your cat likes to play with.

Wrong timing

Cats sleep a lot—on average around 15 hours a day—and they also tend to be more docile following a meal. In both cases your cat isn’t playing because they’re simply not in the mood. After all, you probably wouldn’t like to have a feather waved in your face while trying to nap either! 

Cats prefer to play for shorter stints of time versus long ones. A good approach is to scatter your cat’s playtime throughout the day. It’s also better to play with your kitty before feeding them. This makes it less likely your cat will get bored of their food and also mirrors the feeling of hunting for their dinner in the wild! 

sleepy cat

Your cat has forgotten how to play

Has it been a while since you last played with your cat? It could be that your kitty is simply feeling confused when you start waving around their toy. Not to worry, Mr Whiskers is a quick learner and his muscle memory will kick in in no time at all. Just keep trying different toys and ways to play to see what engages your cat. 

And don’t make it too hard for your cat to ‘win’ at playing. Let them catch the feather every now and then to boost your kitty’s confidence.

How much playtime do cats need?

Cats need daily stimulation and may become depressed, apathetic, or even aggressive if they don’t get it. One solution is to get your kitty a friend. Cats play with each other differently than humans can. However, be careful when introducing a new buddy to Mr Whiskers. Felines rarely get on right away, so you’ll need to slowly acclimated the two cats to each other. Keep them in separate rooms in the beginning, and let them get used to each other’s scents. Only after you’re sure your fur friend is perfectly comfortable should you allow your new kitty to be in the same room. 

Whether you have multiple felines or just one, it’s still a good idea to play with your cat or cats every day. Aim for at least 10 minutes of daily playtime. Simulating hunting (with a feather toy or laser pointer), hiding treats for them to find, or practicing tricks are all great ways to keep your kitty happy and healthy. Are you particularly busy or away from home a lot and don’t have time to play with your cat? Our amazing cat sitting community is here to help

Tips to get my cat to play

At a loss on how to get your cat to play with you? Here are a few tips for fun playtime with Mr Whiskers.

  • Find the right toy for your cat. Test out a variety of toys and see what your kitty likes.
  • Is your cat sleeping? Did your furry friend just eat a meal? Are they just not in the mood? Don’t try to force your kitty to play if they don’t feel like it. Aim for when your kitty is awake and before they’ve eaten. 
  • Reward your cat while playing, or after playing. This reinforces the positive experience and will make Mr Whiskers look forward to playing next time too! 
  • Allow your cat the space to walk away if they are tired. 
  • Hide toys away in a cupboard so that it’s more novel and exciting whenever you get them out again. 

What are the best cat toys?

There are a wide variety of cat toys out there, which will make your job as a furparent that much easier. Every kitty is different, and every cat enjoys playing with different things. Here are a few of the more popular cat toy options: 

  • Feather rod: We’ve mentioned the feather rod quite a bit in this post, and that’s because it’s a feline favourite. Feather rods help boost your kitty’s hunting nature and there are many options to choose from. Some make noises like mice or birds, others are simply feathers or bells. 
  • Balls and catnip mice: The major advantage of balls is that cats can play with them on their own. The same goes for catnip mice. These plush toys can be stuffed with catnip and will provide your kitty with hours of solo fun. 
  • Play circuits/rails: These are great for stimulating your fur friend’s brain. The best part is, you don’t have to retrieve stray balls from under the sofa or refrigerator. Your cat will have a blast batting balls back and forth along the play circuit. 
  • Collapsible tunnels: These tunnels are very popular with felines. Not only do they make rustling noises, which kitties love, but they’ll help get your cat moving. 
  • Battery-operated cat toys: Anything that moves is sure to get a cat’s attention. This is why battery-operated mice or bugs make great cat toys. 
  • Intelligence toys: Do you have a kitty that’s particularly smart? Place treats in a cat puzzle and see if Mr Whiskers can figure out how to fish them out! 

Can I make my own cat toys?

Sometimes cats don’t need a lot to keep them entertained. Take a look around your house to see what you have lying about that might make a good cat toy. Do you have a cork or crumpled piece of paper? These can make fun balls for your kitty. Have any extra boxes or bubble wrap? Cats love boxes and even more so if there’s some fun bubble wrap inside. Do you have a small plastic bottle? Instead of sending it for recycling, fill it with things that rattle (such as marbles or paper clips). Your cat will love playing with this! 

If you do plan on making a cat toy yourself, be sure it isn’t harmful to your kitty. Avoid things that can be swallowed or have sharp edges. Long threads can also be dangerous as your cat is at risk of strangulation. Always make sure you or your cat sitter is around to supervise when Mr Whiskers is playing with homemade toys. 

Cat sitters: Playing is a big part of cat sitting. However, it’s always best to ask your kitty client’s owners about their cat’s playing habits. Some felines might be playful, others not so much. Find out what your kitty client’s favourite toys are and whether you can reward Mr Whiskers with playtime treats. If your kitty client is a little shy, don’t push them. After a few visits they’ll surely warm up to you and be playing in no time! 

Tip: Always play with the cat before you feed it! As we all know, it’s harder to run on a full stomach.

Would you like to earn money while playing and cuddling with cats? Sign up to become a cat sitter with Cat in a Flat

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