Playing with your cat is a great way to form a bond with her. Cats, like all mammals, engage in play as youngsters and continue to do so even after they have grown up. Play is a complex learning activity that helps kittens develop social relationships and helps them hone their physical and mental skills.
But it is also fun, which is why adult cat continue to do it. You can spend many enjoyable hours just watching with amusement as your cat plays. Watching a cat play is one of the most entertaining pastimes afforded to the cat owner. And playing with your cat can be even better, but first you need to understand how cats play.
A cat’s play takes three forms, though often it is sometimes difficult to separate them.
Social play is how kittens learn to interact with their littermates, their mother, other cats, other household pets, and you. During social play, kittens test their world and learn their place in it. Kittens develop personality traits based on their playful interactions that accompany them into adulthood. As a kitten grows, social play with littermates gives way to social play with their human caregiver(s), assuming that the kitten is adopted into a family and is not simply fending for herself.
Poking, batting, and tossing around small objects are ways that kittens learn about how to deal with prey. During such play sessions they develop the survival skills that they might need if they ever have to provide for themselves. You may see your kitten stomp on her toys, flip them over, and circle them once they land – acts that mimic overpowering and killing a prey animal for food. Object play teaches a cat how the world and things in it feel, what is animate and what is inanimate. She may jump up from her toys as if noxious, invisible rays emanate from them, and then dissolve into fits of sheer delight and discovery.
An active cat is a confident cat. The running and jumping of locomotor play helps a kitten increase strength, coordination, and flexibility. Locomotor play also stimulates a cat’s appetite while helping to keep her physically fit. In addition, locomotor play helps eliminate boredom. An active play session at night can help reduce a cat’s nocturnal perambulations, which otherwise may keep the cat’s owner awake.
In addition to the physical lessons play teaches kittens and cats, play also teaches emotional ones. Kittens learn that playing is just plain fun and that it feels good to run, jump and cavort with other cats and animals, including human ones.
Playing With Your Cat
Playing with your cat can seem like a pretty simple task, but not all cats play alike. Here are a few tips that will make playtime a more fulfilling time for you and your cat, whether you are a first-time cat owner or a feline veteran.
Safety is always first. Some cats will play with nearly everything they can find, whether or not it’s safe for them. Be sure to inspect every toy for loose threads, breakable parts, or bits that can be swallowed accidentally. Don’t forget to make sure that the toy is safe for you too; letting Fluffy nibble on your earrings is probably not a great choice. Many behaviorists suggest against using your hands as a toy as it can encourage cats to nip and scratch them.
Cats respond to different stimuli. Just like humans, cats have individual preferences for what kinds of toys they prefer. Some like toys with jingling bells or crinkly cellophane inside. Other cats go crazy for any toys with a lot of motion or parts that dangle. Some prefer lots of different toys and others like only one type. Spend some time finding out what things make your cat perk up, and you’ll have a better chance of finding a game that they love. A cat wand with detachable ends, such as the Neko Flies wand is an inexpensive way to vary the toys you use with your cat.
Mix it up. The same repeated motion or sound can quickly become boring to your cat. Try waving a cat toy in different patterns, tossing toys down stairs or across a room, and swap out toys occasionally to keep the experience exciting. Vary the speeds with which you flip their kitty wand or drag their toy across the carpet.