How to play with a cat?
This is an activity which should be a component of the cat’s daily routine but is often forgotten by us, cat owners,. Playing with the cat as well as proper nutrition are very important elements on which we should focus, if we have a cat. The right game satisfies the cat, unloads emotions such as stress and makes our cat simply happy! If we do not play with the cat at all or we do it inappropriately, we can expect consequences in the form of aggression, depression … and later destroyed furniture and scratched hands.
Why is playing with a cat so important? How to play with a cat? Which cat games are the best and which ones should be avoided?
Social play and cat hunting play
Many of us – cat owners, do not realize how important it is to play with our pet. This is most often the result of not paying attention to this fact, lack of time and lack of adequate knowledge about the cats’ needs.
One of the main needs is the need to play. There are two types: social play but I will write about it in the article on the development of kittens and the hunting play on which I will focus in this article.
This kind of kittens’ play develops from the fourth to the twelfth week of life – the first learning experience of small kittens is playing with mice – mum brings half-alive prey to the nest in order to teach her children hunting behaviors and facilitate their adult life. Sneaking and searching for hidden objects are also included in such games.
Why am I writing about this? Well, many of us encounter, most often in our own home, behavioral problems of our pets such as aggression and anxiety. Few of us, however, associate these problems with play, or rather lack of it. This is a big mistake! What we need to remember is the fact that our cats live in the house but deep down they are wild creatures. In the course of evolution, the hunting instinct of our domestic cat has been slightly subdued, but it hasn’t been completely eliminated. Cats are still very successful hunters, however in a domestic situation, they don’t hunt to satisfy their hunger. If we do not create a situation where he can satisfy his hunting instinct, the cat may become hyperactive, aggressive or develop depression.
How to play with a cat?
A cat, although domestic, has his needs. They stem from his nature and genes. In the wild, your cat would probably hunt about fourteen times a day. Not all of these quests would end up capturing the prey, but the number of attempts would be high. However, your cat lives in … between four walls. I hope that not many people have mice running around the kitchen, which is a big plus for us, unfortunately not for a cat. In this case it is up to you, your knowledge and willingness to satisfy your cat’s needs.
Unlike dogs, cats in the course of evolution, have kept FULL PREDATORY SEQUENCE. What does it really mean in relations with an average kitty cat?
What is a predatory sequence?
The cat is a predator. The basic need of our cats’ ancestors was hunting for food/prey. In order to execute the hunting need, the cat must perform the entire sequence of behaviors, with each element being equally important. The set of these behaviors is called the predatory sequence.
Cat’s predatory sequence looks like this:
SEARCH – STALK – RUSH/CHASE – GRAB – KILL – DISSECT -EAT
During cat’s play each of these stages is very important to him. The trivial play with feathers should be carefully planned in our heads step by step.
Now take the toy in your hand and play with the cat for a while (it’s best if it is a long rod ending with feathers or something attractive for a cat, something he can catch – a ball of paper, fringes, mouse). Look at the individual elements of the above-mentioned sequence and evaluate if each of these stages is noticeable in your interaction. Aren’t you, while watching tv, mindlessly moving your hand back and forth, making the feathers too predictable and unattractive and in no way reminding the cat of the chaotic movements that a bird does? If your cat seems uninterested during your play, it means that you have to practice playing with the cat.
How the play should look like, you’ll see in this video:
Toys for cats
What toys should you buy for your cat?
On the market there is a whole range of toys for cats – mice, rods, tunnels …. a lot of it. However, not all of them will be to your cat’s liking. The situation is similar to that of our children – if a toy was just a toy, no matter what we bought, the child would always be happy but we know that it doesn’t work that way – one child squeaks in delight seeing a police car, whereas another while getting a doll. This is why it is important to take into consideration your cat’s preferences, and not yours, when buying a toy for him.
Toys for cats::
- Interactive toys
- Scratching toys
The toy must remind the cat of a live prey and the interaction with it must fulfill all elements of the predatory sequence – otherwise the game does not satisfy the cat who has to unload in a different way – eg on our legs or furniture.
Of course, your cat can have a lot of toys, we can buy interactive toys, which during our absence at home will help our cat maintain some satisfaction, but it cannot be the only way we play with a cat, because in fact we do not participate at all.
Your cat needs you – some need more, some less hunting games during the day, but 99% of them, apart from those very sick and unable to play, need to play with you. Interactive toys are a great alternative for hyperactive individuals, but we cannot rely solely on them.
The most common mistakes about playing with a cat
The mistakes I encounter most often during my work with cats and their owners are:
- Laser play!!!
- Letting a kitten catch our hands: when a cat is small, we let him bite our hands and we find it funny, but as the cat grows and his weight reaches 3/5 kg, it is not funny any more because it hurts. Unfortunately at that point, it is quite late to change our cat’s habits.
- Leaving a lot of mice, balls and similar things around the house and expecting the cat to play by himself when we are not at home
- Lack of routine – cats like routinee very much so it is important for them to play at a specific time or situation. The predictability of the daily routine gives them a lot of peace and mental safety. Such predictability, for very sensitive individuals, may even be the basis of mental health
- Playing with a cat until exhaustion – the cat should play often but for a relatively short period of time – about 10 minutes. One long game with a cat will not do the trick so do not play with him for 30/40 minutes!!!
- THE BIGGEST MISTAKE – total lack of play and yet expecting the cat to behave well, be gentle and loving despite everything.
Let’s start with the young years – how much our behavior towards the cat during his / her youth impacts our life with a cat I will describe in a separate article, and there is lots to write about. In the context of what I am writing about and you are reading today, you must know that you cannot let a young cat jump on your arms and legs and expect that it will pass with time – on the contrary, with age, this behavior will be more and more well-established and much more painful for our limbs. The fact that the kitten will want to play with our moving feet and hands is a normal thing and ‘punishment’ in the common sense of the word is unacceptable and you must know about it. So what to do when the cat bites us in the big toe and we THINK! Think about why he does it? Because he has a need to hunt. What is he supposed to hunt for? If you do not play with him the right way he will satisfy his needs by hunting your feet. What do you have to do then? Learn to play with him and this way redirect his attacks towards something that can actually and should indeed be attacked. Simple? Well yes, but not always and unfortunately not for everyone.
Laser for a cat
Is laser good for playing with a cat?
Laser – I have written about it many times so this is just a reminder. The predatory sequence and its elements. Are you fulfilling all the elements of the predatory sequence when playing with a laser? Definitely not! Health aspects aside, this is not a good play with the cat. I know, I know … it’s hilariuos to watch your cat run on the walls, but you laugh now and I guarantee that the effect of this game will not be something to laugh at later, so stop it.
A cat is a wise animal so even if millions of mice and balls will fly around your home, the cat will get bored with them after one day. It may also happen that he will want to play with them but it will require your involvement because the plush mouse will not run away from the cat by itself, so do not be surprised if the cat will not show interest in expensive toys – this is not about money.
The biggest mistake, as I mentioned earlier, is the total lack of play with a kitten. We cannot expect that the animal will develop properly, will not show aggressive behaviors and will be satisfied with his life without appropriate stimulation. The word play sounds trivial – I know but it is the key to our happy life with a cat under one roof. Do not underestimate it because this behavior may later result in your problems related to scratched furniture, continuous vocalization of the cat, wounds on hands and feet or a cat dreaming of escaping from you as far as possible.
Adequate play is essential. Focus for a moment, learn to play with your cat and make your relationship blossom.