Cats need play like all pets. As a pet parent, you can provide a variety of outlets for play either by playing interactive games or providing suitable toys for your cat to play with alone or with another pet. Playing with your cat regularly will help you learn about your pet’s personality and deepen your connection.
Depending on your cat’s age, weight, temperament, and interests, you may be able to set up an area where your cat can romp around and climb. Cat trees and scratching posts are ideal for this kind of activity. If you are handy with tools, you can build your own cat jungle gym, or you can find one at your local pet supply store or online. If your cat is reluctant, you may need to get more involved in the festivities.
Activities that stimulate a cat’s natural hunting instincts are often the best bet. Small motorized remote controlled and battery powered furry mice are great for getting a cat’s attention. Even the economical non-motorized mice are appealing; you will just have to do all the mock mouse movements using a string that is attached to the mouse. Along the same line, feather toys are good bird replicas. They are often attached to the end of a stick or string so that you can mimic the movements of a wounded bird, one of a cat’s favorite objects for stalking. Your cat should never have access to feather toys without supervision. They can be very dangerous if swallowed. And everyone knows how much kittens love a simple length of yarn. A piece of thick ribbon, shoelace or yarn can be wiggled across the floor or beneath a closed door (with you on one side of the door and the cat on the other) just out of the cat’s reach.
A lot of cats will grow out of this fascination with string as they age, but not all of them do. It wouldn’t hurt to try with your older cat. Just remember to put the string and ribbons away after the games. Many an emergency intestinal blockage could have been avoided if the string had not been left out for the cat to swallow.
Another favorite is the beam of light. If you already have a smallish flashlight, you can try to get your cat to chase it around. Laser pointers are even better, since the small beam of light appears to be a little bug, and cats love to chase bugs. Stay low with the light, or you may have your cat trying to climb the shelves to catch it and end up with broken knick-knacks on the floor. Also, be sure to avoid flashing the beam directly into your cat’s eyes.
Keep the fun novel for your cat by trying stuff you already have around the house. Empty boxes with holes cut into them make great “caves” and scratching toys, and crumpled paper, especially the tissue type that makes lots of noise, is great for batting around. Paper bags are fun for crawling into, too, but avoid the plastic bags; you don’t want to risk an accidental suffocation. Also: plastic rings, empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, stuffed animals, etc. Just be careful none of the household “toys” can become choking hazards.
Scratching posts and cat trees entice cats to climb, which uses their muscles and naturally wears down the points of their claws. If you have the space, set up a cat obstacle course in your home so that your cat can jump from place to place to get to the next perch. There are pre-made shelving systems that you can find online, or you can build a system of your own, with shelves that go from the floor to the ceiling in a step pattern. Some people will add a wrap-around ceiling-high shelf so their cats can climb and jump all the way up to find a good spot where they can watch over their kitty kingdom. If you have a yard, you can build or buy an outdoor enclosure that allows your cat the advantage of being outside without the dangers of traffic and other animals.
Finally, if your cat really needs to lose some weight, there are exercise wheels. These are like those for hamsters but made just for cats! Exercise wheels do not take up much space, and they allow cats to run and run to their heart’s content.
An ideal time to end a play session is after your cat has just scored a decisive “victory,” or if your cat has lost interest. In both scenarios, give your cat some nice praise just for showing up.