Playtime is one of the most important times you’ll spend with your cat. Without a good amount of playtime, your cat won’t be able to develop all their motor skills, they’ll have pent up energy and frustration, and they just won’t be living an enriched life – they won’t be happy.
On that note, Cat Amazing, the company that offers clever cardboard feeder products to keep cats entertained, has produced a new downloadable PDF guide that covers a ton of information on how to keep cats happy at home. And it’s completely free!
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The Ultimate Guide to Indoor Cat Enrichment is a 22-page PDF packed with loads of useful information on helping cats to lead a healthy and fulfilling life indoors. It’s got helpful tips, insights into cat behavior, and product recommendations.
It’s not just a 22-page advert for Cat Amazing though – they barely mention their own items, and instead showcase some of their favorite products from other manufacturers, as well as having a whole section on DIY toys you can make at home. And these are unbiased recommendations, they’re not earning any compensation for these items they’ve chosen.
Inspired by that guide, let’s take a look at cats and play, including some of the key types of toys that you can buy for your kitty. While every individual cat has different preferences regarding toys and playtime, this covers some of the common feline play traits.
Sign up for the Ultimate Guide to Indoor Cat Enrichment here.
Objective Play 🐱
Playing with your cat works best when there’s some kind of objective involved, because that’s what stimulates your cat’s brain and gets them engaged. Playtime isn’t just about physical stimulation and burning off energy, but it’s about providing your cat with the right circumstances to have fun. And cats have the most fun when they succeed at an objective.
Those objectives can vary – it might be to catch the prey, or find the treat, or achieve top speed as they zoom through a tunnel. As long as there’s a goal in mind, your cat will find playtime to be a much more rewarding experience.
However, your cat will get bored if the objective is always too easy, or too difficult. Finding the balance is important to maintain their interest.
Patterns of Play
There are various patterns involved in playtime with your cats.
Play in Kittens
It’s absolutely crucial to play with kittens often. Kittens will start to play from around 4-5 weeks old, so the breeder should have already got your kitten started. You’ll need to set aside time to play with your kitten every day, although how much will depend on the individual kitty. Some cats will have boundless energy, and others less so. But settle into a good routine. Generally, multiple shorter play sessions are better for staving off boredom.
Playing with your kitten will improve your bond with them, but equally importantly kitten playtime is all about developing key motor skills too, and helping your cat develop in a healthy way.
Cats will often develop predatory instincts at a young age, and will start to use play to hone those skills. If a kitten has a playmate then it will often direct that playful hunting aggression towards them, but it can become a problem for owners if they adopt a solo kitty. They may hide around corners, stalk you and pounce on you, with the result sometimes being minor scratches or bites.
You can redirect this energy through the use of some cat toys that help your cat to refine their stalking play on inanimate objects. Cat wants and crinkle toys are perfect for teaching your cat how to stalk and pounce without putting yourself in the firing line.
Food in Games
Cats are naturally hunters, even if they’ve come from a long line of domesticated animals. So involving food is an equally natural way to encourage playtime with your cat. A lot of toys are designed so that you can hide small bits of food among them, leaving your cat a problem to solve.
Even beyond satisfying the hunting instinct, food can be used as positive reinforcement – a small treat when your cat is playing in a productive and healthy way will encourage the behavior to continue. Obviously part of the point of play is exercise too, so don’t undo all the good work by overfeeding your kitty as a reward all of the time.
Protect Your Hands
Playtime can get very energetic and many cats love to jump and pounce and scratch. So it’s a good idea to protect your hands during these fun sessions, if you want to avoid being accidentally mauled. Toys with range – like wands – will help you stay really interactive with your cat without being in harm’s way.
Motor Skills in Play
Play helps cats to refine their motor skills involved in catching, climbing and coordination when jumping. Play sessions with younger kittens will ensure your cat has no trouble carrying out their regular day-to-day activities when they’re older.
Questions about Play for Cats
Is my cat playful or scared?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your cat is scared, or if they’re just being playful. Cats do like to roleplay on occasion! While every cat is different, telltale signs that your cat is genuinely anxious include flattened ears and wrapping their tail around their body.
What toy will almost any cat play with? 😺
Every cat is different and will have different interests, but generally cats love toys that trigger multiple senses, including touch, sight and sound. So crinkle balls made from plastic that reflect light and make a satisfying crunching noise when squashed are a good option.
Often cats will just like to investigate – don’t be surprised if your kitty seems less interested in a new toy and more interested in the cardboard box it came in when it first arrives, because it’s a fun place to dive into and hide.
Why do cats play?
Cats play for a number of reasons. It provides an outlet for their natural predatory instincts, and it just stops them from being bored. Cats who are bored won’t be happy – that’s why it’s also important to keep things fresh with playtime.
Give them some toys that they always have access to, but keep some back as well, and don’t use the same one each time. Novelty is important to most cats, and different toys will mean better interaction.
Interactive Cat Toys
There are all kinds of interactive cat toys that many kitties love to play with. Some of the best are puzzle toys that your cat has to solve in order to access treats.
Laser pointer toys aren’t always recommended, because your cat doesn’t get the satisfaction of the catch – if they pounce on the laser they don’t have that physical sensation of the win. But other toys with a tangible reward are good choices.
Tunnel Cat Toys
Cats often love tunnel toys because when they have the zoomies they just adore speeding through the tunnel at high speed. It also gives them somewhere to hide too, perfect for stealthily hiding from prey, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.
If your cat is in a tunnel and seems in the mood for play, try dangling a toy at one end of the tunnel – but keep your hands away if you want to avoid being pounced on yourself.
Ball Cat Toys
Balls will often just fascinate a cat due to their unpredictability. Toys that involve runners with a secured ball, that your cat can bat around, are a lot of fun since your cat can work out how to push the ball around. Loose ball toys, providing they’re big enough to not choke your kitty, can also be fun to chase and catch.
Feather Cat Toys
Feather toys are often used on the ends of wands to simulate animals, taking the place of a bird. Natural feathers are even more stimulating for cats since it helps them feel like a predator. It’s always important to make these games a bit of a challenge, but always end with your cat catching the prey to leave them satisfied.
Other similar toys may look like bugs or mice – anything small that a predator cat might want to catch.
Trees for Cats
Cat trees give your cats a lot of space to climb, jump and sometimes hide. They also provide your cat with high platforms to oversee the room, which they enjoy since it means they can relax more and have full scope to avoid any threats.
More about the Cat Amazing PDF
Inside the Cat Amazing PDF guide, you’ll find sections on setting up your space, playing, climbing, hiding, scratching, and then what to look for in a cat who isn’t feeling enriched. There are also details on caring for a cat from a shelter/rescue.
The play section is pretty comprehensive, taking up around half the guide. It covers typical play behavior, and the pros and cons of some of the most popular cat toy types, including wands, lasers, trapping and catching toys, tunnels, and more. There are useful tips for getting the most out of every play session too.
The Climb & Perch section explores how to make the best use of your space at home to give your cats the fulfillment they need, including advice on helping your cat enjoy the sunlight and catios/outdoor spaces too.
Hide explores why cats like to hide, the best options you can put together to give your cat some alone time, and advice on how to get your cat to stop using a hiding place that you don’t want them to.
You’ll learn about typical scratching behaviors, tips on protecting your furniture, and the various different scratcher materials (and how good they are). Then there are a lot of tips of signs to watch out for if your kitty isn’t completely happy.
To get your copy, all you need to do is head over to the Cat Amazing website and enter your email address. You’ll then get a copy sent straight to you to download – mine arrived within seconds.