Tagged: “fun with cats”

Play with Your Cats!

Play with Your Cats!

Do you play with your cat?  I don’t mean the occasional toss of a paper wad or wiggling the fingers under the blanket.  Do you have regularly scheduled play sessions that gives your indoor cat an appropriate outlet for her energy and helps her meet her instincts to catch prey?  New studies are showing that this could be one of the major causes of most behavior issues we have with our pet cats.  I am taking a 10-week course on cat behavior, specifically designed to give the students the tools and information necessary to help people solve their cat behavior problems – everything from litter box issues, cat-to-cat aggression and other destructive or frustrating behaviors.  Start calling if you are having problems – the instructors would love us to work on real cases!  The first thing I’ve learned is about the importance of play.

If you think about our cats’ ancestors, and I’m only going back a couple of generations, not hundreds of years, they lived mostly outdoors (which wasn’t nearly as dangerous as it is today, but still shortened many cats’ lives) and spent a great deal of time stalking and hunting prey.  It is thought that a typical cat would need to catch 20 critters (bugs, birds and rodents) each day to meet their caloric needs.  The cat’s day would look like this:  hunt, eat, groom, nap – repeat.  Our spoiled indoor cats have it easy – full bowls of kibble whenever they are hungry and no threat of becoming the prey, getting hit by cars, or getting injured defending their territory.  But in contrast, without some creativity on the part of their parents, their lives are pretty dull.

Cats love routine and feel most secure in their familiar territory, but they do need some way to release their energy, especially young animals.  And this is where structured playtime with you comes in.  We need to meet their need to stalk and catch prey to both physically and mentally keep our pets stimulated and happy.  I’m not at all advocating releasing mice or crickets in your home!  There are many toys to choose from that will do the trick – if you take the time to use them properly.  Find toys that you can control (we’re talking interactive play here – you need to be involved!) like a fishing pole with a feather attached or a squeaky mouse.  You want to move the object in a way that will catch your cat’s attention and you will immediately notice when it does.  Every part of your docile pet kitty becomes a fierce hunter – the pupils dilate, the ears are forward and focused, the tail goes back and may swish back and forth, the cat lowers his body and slinks forward – and then he pounces!  Ta da!  A successful hunt – or not – depending on whose reflexes were quicker!

The recommendation is two play sessions daily for 10-15 minutes followed by feeding your cat a small meal (he would eat after a successful hunt, of course), then he should groom himself and settle in for a nap.  All tension released and no need to pick on his feline companions, you, or anything else.  It sounds simple but the argument makes sense.  Most behavior issues are because we have bored, under-stimulated, or stressed cats (particularly in multi-cat households).  So it makes sense that anything we can do to provide more stimulation would be beneficial.

Stay tuned, as the course progresses I will be providing more tidbits and suggestions.  Remember to email or call if you are having behavior issues with your cat.  This course will only be worthwhile if the knowledge can be used to help our community’s cats and cat parents!