Games can teach your cat a variety of lessons and help him interact with you and other pets in the household. Some experts, such as veterinarians Suzanne Delzio and Cindy Ribarich, authors of Felinestein: Pampering the Genius in Your Cat, believe that games can even boost your cat’s I.Q.
Cats are usually pretty good at inventing games to keep themselves amused, but sometimes their creativity needs a boost. To help keep your cat stay amused, active and interested, try some of these games that are easy for you to make and fun for your cat to play. Most involve using items you can find around the house.
1. Table Tennis Without the Table
A lot of games can be played with a ping pong ball. Ping pong balls are lightweight and won’t harm your cat or your furniture if they are in the way of a mis-aimed throw. If you have a long hallway, roll the ball from side to side and watch your cat chase it down the hall. If you have no hallway, roll the ball around in the bathtub to amuse Tabby or in any uncarpeted room of the house where there’s room for him to run.
2. Losing His Marbles
Place a marble or one-inch rubber ball in an egg carton, preferably one that holds two or three dozen eggs. Show your cat the marble by moving it from one hollow to another. Your cat will get the idea and have fun trying to scoop the marble out of the egg carton to the floor where he can roll it to his heart’s content. If you’re using a rubber ball, bounce it back into the egg carton and let your cat start all over again.
3. Tap the Sack
When you empty a paper sack of groceries, place the sack on the floor. Tap the end of it, and watch your cat fly into the bag. Keep his interest by tapping whenever the bag with your cat in it comes to rest. As an alternative, roll a ball or crumpled piece of paper into the sack and watch your cat slide into the sack chasing the moving object.
Shine a penlight, small flashlight or laser light up and down the wall and across the floor, giving a whole new meaning to the word, “flashing.” Move it quickly and erratically. Watch your cat get lots of exercise chasing the light. To heighten the effect, dim the room lights. If you use a laser light, be careful not to shine it in your cat’s eyes.
5. All Work and Some Play
If you’re doing housework, tie a piece of string around your ankle with an eight- to ten-inch length of it trailing behind. Your cat can chase the string as you walk. Be careful not to step backwards and accidentally step on your cat.
6. Boxed In
Tape together several different sized cardboard boxes that are large enough for your cat to get in and move around. Cut holes in the top of the boxes and cut internal holes so that your cat can move from one box to the other inside them. Drop a ping pong ball in one of the holes. Your cat will have a ball, so to speak, bouncing the ping pong ball from one cardboard box to another.
7. Yards of Fun
Slide a yardstick under a throw rug or scatter rug. Let an inch or so show on the other side of the rug and watch your cat attack the yardstick as you move it.
8. Treasure Hunt
Buy some catnip toys or make them by putting some dried catnip in the toe of some socks and tying the ends. Let your cat play with one of them so he becomes familiar with the toy. Then, hide the toys around the house for your cat to find. Place them under cushions, behind curtains, on windowsills – anywhere your cat is likely to explore.
9. All Wound Up
Purchase some child’s windup toys that are small enough to look like prey to your cat – about the size of a large mouse or rat. Wind up the toy and let it roll across a vinyl floor. Your cat will enjoy chasing it as much as a child does.
10. Goin’ Fishin’
One of the toys that cats seem to enjoy most are the fishing-pole style toys. The pole should be made from flexible plastic for safety in case your cat leaps into it accidentally. The string should be made with 50-pound fishing line. Purchase a pole-toy that has a three-inch swatch of fabric folded in half and tied to the end of the fishing line. The fabric mimics the movement of a moth or other insect in flight and is more apt to fascinate your cat than frighten him, which some of the larger objects attached to the pole toys may do. You can swing the fishing-pole toy to a radius of six or seven feet all from your easy chair. These toys are excellent ways to exercise your cat if you are confined to a wheel chair. When your cat is finished playing with the toy, put it away so he doesn’t chew on and swallow the string.
For activities that will teach your cat and boost his intelligence quotient at the same time, read Felinestein: Pampering the Genius in Your Cat by Susanne Delzio, Cindy Ribarich (HarperCollins, 1999). Felinestein includes 100 games and activities, for every type of owner and every personality of cat, that will get your cat exploring, thinking, and making decisions.