Benefits of Play
Cats are naturally clever and curious creatures. Taking the time to play with our feline friends is fundamental not just for their physical development but also for their mental stimulation and enjoyment. Play helps keep your cat's joints and muscles healthy and helps them to maintain an ideal weight, which is particularly important for cats who prefer to spend their time indoors. Playtime is an essential ingredient for a cat's happiness and the perfect way to strengthen your bond with them.
General Rules of the Game
Each cat is entirely individual, and so is their preferred way of playing - discovering exactly how your feline friend likes to play is often a fun-filled experience! A variety of factors determine this, including your cat's age and breed: for example, Bengals tend to be more energetic than Persian cats. Some general rules may help decipher what suits your cat best, and an approach of process and elimination can allow you to understand your cat and find out what they most enjoy. I have two cats (Percy who is 9 and Penelope who is nearly 3) they have very different habits when it comes to playtime. Percy love to chase string and he loves carrying helium balloons around the house! (a discovery I made by accident one year when I got him a balloon for his birthday - I've got one as a treat for him every year since) Penelope loves to chase laser pens and teaser toys the best whereas it seems Percy feels he is too old for such games.
Percy on his 5th birthday
Dr. Elizabeth Racine explains - "A cat's play behaviours are rooted in their natural instincts, particularly hunting behaviours". And so a cat's playtime should mimic and encourage this kind of behaviour and incorporate pouncing, chasing and jumping.
When and for how long should you play with your cat?
Vets typically suggest around an hour of play per day. These can be broken up into 10-minute chunks to provide multiple energy releases throughout the day. Regular and routine exercise is crucial for older cats to maintain mobility and healthy joints as they age. A good time to initiate play is before mealtimes. Your cat would naturally be preparing to capture its prey/meal, and the reward after playtime mimics the reward they would get from a successful hunting trip.
Types of cat toys
There's a huge variety of cat toys available online and from your local pet store so you may want to get a selection of different ones in order to find out what your cat likes the most. Below are the types of toys you are likely to come across when shopping for your feline friend.
One of the best playthings to simulate prey is a teaser toy that can be pulled along a floor or dangled above your cat to encourage jumping and pouncing. Make sure you allow your cat to catch the item at some point to replicate the capture of prey and satisfy their hunting instincts. Consider rewarding success with a cat treat or their next meal.
Teaser toys are particularly great for kittens, as it gives them a specific target to play with - a welcome alternative to them playing with your hands and feet! By allowing your kitten to capture its prey, you can help build confidence in a shy cat and teach them skills for when they go out into the big wide world. Teaser toys are a fantastic way for you to engage with your cat and partake in play, but remember that something lying motionless on the ground might not inspire a cat to play on their own accord - unless catnip is involved! Always seek out high-quality toys that will stand up to your cat's sharp teeth and claws. Cheshire & Wain teaser toys are made from leather to ensure long life and durability.
Cats have a heightened sense of smell; in fact, it's 14 times more sensitive than ours! It doesn't take long for a cat to sniff out the alluring scent of catnip. Try sprinklingLoose catnip in cardboard boxes or inside paper bags to promote movement and hide and seek play. You can also use it to encourage your cat to use certain areas of your home for play. Put some on their scratching post, so they prefer scratching that instead of your furniture. If you live in a multi-cat household, be sure to play with each cat individually. Use a catnip toy to occupy one cat whilst you engage with another, or you can play with one cat whilst another is sleeping, so it's always on their terms.
Catnip toys are ideal for senior cats, who may be partial to slower games. If your cat has decreased mobility, movements such as leaping and pouncing may be too strenuous for them. They may prefer wrestling with a soft toy, or finding ones you have hidden away for them to find. Throwing toys under furniture or pushing them inside shoes can prove lots of fun for a cat that struggles to leap and bound around. Having a quick play with a catnip toy before bedtime can also help release that final burst of energy, allowing your cat to have a deepened and more relaxed rest.
Cat's can quickly lose interest in toys, so it's a good idea to keep a variety that will stimulate your kitty in different ways. Make sure to tidy their toys away once you've finished playing to maintain a sense of novelty or hide their favourites away with a treat for them to find and be rewarded by.
Once your cat has finished playing, they will most likely want to retire for some rest. Cats can feel vulnerable when resting as they are not on full alert, so it's important they have somewhere to retreat to that feels safe and secure. Typically, this will be somewhere quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of the extended family. A space can be made even more cosy and comfortable by providing your cat with a cat bed made from soft, inviting materials such as a sheepskin rug or a faux fur throw. If your cat likes to get into high up places give them ready access and try putting a thermal pad atop a wardrobe or bookcase for them to retire to undisturbed. By respecting their privacy, you enhance your bond, and your cat will be more likely to seek you out as a result. Ready for the next round of play!
A balanced amount of sleep and play is essential for your cat's general wellbeing. On average, a cat spends sixteen hours a day in restful slumber, so making this time as comfortable as possible will promote your cat's happiness at home. Try weaving play into their daily routine when they feel more lively, such as before and after mealtimes, to stimulate their instincts to hunt - which is especially important for indoor kitties. At Cheshire & Wain, we have an extensive range of cat toys in fun shapes and designs to entertain your cat for hours on end. And, when it's time for sleep, our range of natural sheepskin rugs and faux fur beds and blankets will ensure even the fussiest of cats will be as happy as can be!