How to play with a cat

copyright (c) 2021 Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved.

"Some of the cat's psychological needs may also be met through social interactions with the owner, such as play and displays of affection." - Bradshaw, Casey and Brown, THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE DOMESTIC CAT.

All cats need to play and things to play with to enrich cat life at home. Cat toys and puzzle feeders supply objects for solitary play and feline house- mates can offer social play opportunities. Don't forget that you are the most important aspect of your cat's environment and add play time to your shared activities.

Make sure playing with your cat includes daily interactive play with a fishing wand toy. These sessions can have the most impact on your cat's behavior and your relationship with them. When a cat plays on their own there is a predictability to the play - when you are at the other end of the wand toy the interaction is dynamic and you can be the unpredictable "prey" object they are designed to enjoy pursuing. Remember:

- Draw or drag the toy away from or across the cat's line of vision to best engage them. Think of the feathers or fur at the end of the wand as standing in for a mouse, bird, etc., and how that might move when a cat might have the best opportunity to catch it. Vary your movements. Keep it interesting.

- Cats have been shown to truly benefit from schedule and routine. Keep play regular and as close to on schedule as possible.

- While a long play session can be a good thing, keeping the cat's interest and keeping it doable for the human is key. Know that less can be more two to five minutes in the morning and evening are good - the important thing is that they happen.

- Experiment with different types of wand toys to see which your cat loves best (I see the feathered ones getting the most response but every cat is different).

- Some cats may not engage initially. Keep going. See which type of toy your cat shows more interest in no matter how slight.

= Keep your reaction muted - no happy camper puppy voices please, cheer on kitty by using your "elevator voice" and thinking encouragement.

- Keep the toy out of sight and in a place where kitty cannot access it when you are not using it for safety and novelty concerns.

- Keeping play sessions on schedule the same time in the morning or evening are vital to giving cats a sense of control over them. Studies show cats thrive on routine.

- Avoid laser pointers- they can be dangerous if misdirected, are inherently frustrating and offer nothing to catch ever. If you must use them, let it be sparingly (they are good for redirecting cat squabbles for instance) and have them disappear under a door and throw a treat where the beam ends.

- Want to see more of what this looks like? Watch my video here.​

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