Is water wet? Is your cat adorable? Can you believe it’s not butter? Yes, yes, yes! There is no doubt that cats need to play, and they’ll look for it in some pretty unusual places - if it moves, it could be fun, as far as kitty is concerned. Although your cat’s taste is un-paw-dictable, rest assured that toys are a big part of the life of a happy feline.
Play is an essential activity for our cuddly overlords. Once upon a time, before humans were domesticated, cats had to hunt for their own food. Now that they are dutifully fed, they need another way of fulfilling this hunting instinct - that’s where play comes in! Stickler and Shull (2014) found that levels of play directly correlated with positive behaviours. Playing with your cat for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day lets it:
Is it possible to play without toys? Potentially, if you’re content to be scratched and bitten. Remember, cats are simulating hunting behaviour - their play is fast, intense and not for the faint hearted. You’ll be glad to have toys to take the place of your hand when your cat shows its claws.
Your cat is as unique as a fingerprint, and different cats will prefer different types of toys. The agile, hyperactive Abyssinian might prefer chasing a wand toy, while the docile Maine Coon would rather bat a ball around. Feeder puzzles are another great option for low-energy cats, and will help with overeating. Buy toys that suit the activity levels of your kitty.
That said, a general rule is to have some variety - cats tend to bore easily and won’t want to play with the same toy every day or week. Try and have toys that vary in:
While you should leave some toys out for independent play, we recommend rotating toys in and out of hiding, to keep them fresh and exciting. Make sure to have some toys that involve you in play.
Finally, keep your cat safe by keeping unsafe toys out of reach - paper clips, pins, plastic bags, among others. Remember that even cat-proof toys can be dangerous once they’ve been subjected to some rough play. If your cat could swallow it, put it away!
The most important thing to remember is what play is filling the function of - hunting. Get your cat’s interest by moving the toy slowly, zig-zagging across its field of vision. As it gets more and more interested, mimic the erratic movements of fleeing prey. Finally, let your kitty close in for the kill. It’s a little morbid to think about, but we promise that toy mice don’t have families.
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