How to Play with Your Cat: Tips and Seven Fun Ideas

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Though people often think of cats as more self-sufficient and low maintenance than dogs, they still need to be kept active, especially if they’re indoors all day. A good play session can do the trick. If they’re still in kittenhood, play is important to help them expend their crazy kitten energy, and it’s key to their development. For cats of all ages, play with their human can keep them at a healthy weight, satisfy their hunting instincts, ensure they have enough mental stimulation, and ease away any stress they may be experiencing. Beyond that, it also serves as good bonding time with their person and may stop them from more destructive tendencies.

A few short spurts of play before you leave for work, when you get home, and before bed can be a good goal to aim for. This should be with each of your cats, too. Here are some fun play activities you can rotate in and out!

Entice Your Cat with Wand Toys

Cat playing with wand toy
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / JOSEPHSJACOBS

If your kitty is all indoors all the time, it doesn’t mean they still don’t have the drive to hunt. You can help them with this, and get them moving, with some wand toys. Toys that resemble their natural prey – mouse-shaped, covered in feathers, or something small to sink their teeth into – are usually a safe bet. Ensure you move the wand like prey would move. Drag it along the floor, drop it into a hiding place your cat can access, or move it low enough in the air that your cat can reach it. Just be sure you let your kitty “catch” the toy so as not to frustrate her. Be sure to put the toy away after use, as well, because strings can be a hazard for our feline friends.

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Try a Laser Pointer, But With Some Treats

Laser pointers can be a fun way to get your cat up and running, but there are a few things to bear in mind to keep it fun and fulfilling for your cat. Unlike many other games, your cat won’t actually be able to “catch” the dot, which can be frustrating. You can tackle this by ultimately pointing the dot at a toy your cat can catch and kick away at. You can also lead it to treats they can enjoy. Just keep an eye out for frustration, which can happen with this game, and stop playing once you do notice it.

Blow Bubbles for Your Cat to Chase

Are you ever washing dishes and notice a few bubbles emerge from the top of the dish soap container when you put it back down? Your cat may have, and those bubbles may seem like good “prey”, too. Blowing bubbles and letting your cat pop them can be a lot of fun for your feline friend. Just make sure the soap in question is non-toxic and have at it!

Try Some Fetch, It’s Not Just for Dogs

Cat playing with ball
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / AFRICA STUDIO

You don’t need to get too far into the cat owner circle to find a few felines that love a good game of fetch. It may not be quite as common as it is in dog owner circles, but it’s hardly out of the ordinary. If your cat shows a fondness for retrieving a favorite ball or other toy, you may not need to do much training at all. To see if this game may be up your cat’s alley, it’s a step-by-step approach. It involves praising your cat and possibly giving her treats when she follows something you’ve thrown, again when she puts it in her mouth, and a third time when she starts bringing it back to you.

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Spend Some Time Learning Tricks Together

Another step-by-step playing activity that should include some praise and treats is teaching your cat tricks and then bonding over repeating them. Cats may not be as interested in being trained as dogs are, but that doesn’t mean some of them aren’t up for it. Just don’t push your cat if she doesn’t seem to be into it. If she is, though, be sure to have short training sessions and focus on things she may already be doing. For some easy tricks to teach cats, click here!

Play a Good Old Fashioned Game of Hide and Seek

Cats love to hide from us. It’s apparent when we need to shake the treat bag to find out where they are. You can use this natural, sometimes frustrating, behavior for playtime with a game of hide and seek! If your cat is already hiding, you can let her know you’re searching for her and then show enthusiasm and affection when you find her. In return, you can call her name, hide, and show that same enthusiasm and affection when she finds you. To get her to “find” you, you can also make it fairly obvious where you’ve hidden by trailing a wand toy behind you. You can reinforce the behavior, too, by adding treats.

Watch Cat TV Together

Setting up a comfy place by a window is a surefire way to make your cat happy. Put a bird feeder somewhere near the window, and it’s even better! While you may not “ekekek” at the birds by instinct like your cats do, you can still speak their language while they do so. They may appreciate the company and the bonding experience! Just be sure that the window in question has a screen and that you don’t leave your cat alone with the window open. Misadventures could occur, for the cat, the window, and any birds that may have been part of the show.

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Prep Them for Playing Without You

Cat playing with catnip toy
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / RAI

Most of the time, your cat will probably be playing solo, but you can make sure that’s enriching, too, by providing fun props for play. That includes toys, from ones that move on their own to crinkle balls to those infused with catnip. Have a variety and switch them out so your cat doesn’t get too bored with them. They should also satisfy your cat’s instincts to stalk, pounce, and capture. Ensuring they have hiding places like cardboard boxes and paper bags is also important, and add that vertical space with cat shelves and cat trees so they can jump, climb, and survey their kingdoms.

Things to Avoid

While we’ve covered fun things to do with your cat, there are also things you should be sure not to do. While it may be fun to get your cat to target your feet or fingers, especially when they’re little, it isn’t the best behavior to encourage. It may lead them to do it to other people, and it may end up being a behavioral issue that’s difficult to break. Another no no? Strings and yarn. They can cause serious trouble if ingested.

You should also recognize that cat personalities and health situations differ, so you shouldn’t push your cat to continue to play if they’re not enjoying it. This is especially true if they’re showing signs of stress or frustration. If your cat is overweight and you’re trying to get them to play to lose a few pounds, be sure to talk to your vet about any weight loss strategies first.

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