Why do cats play?

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

12 July 2018

Playing is an essential cat behaviour. Pudda play might seem like just a rollicking good time for your kitty, but there are methods to their moggy madness. For cat lovers like us, nothing warms the heart more than watching a cat play. Their wonderful ability to stalk, surprise and bust out wacky reactions to particular toys or interactions with their hooman is endlessly entertaining.

It's no surprise to established cat people that cats have come to rule the internet with their quirky and adorable play behaviours. But why do cats play? What is it that drives our fur babies to swat, climb and scoot on a daily basis? Let’s take a peek at the pussycat playbook…     

Cat play is instinctual

Playtime stems from millennia of instinctual cat behaviours passed down from your domestic kitty’s wild ancestors. Your cat’s need to stalk, pounce and gain height in vertical space are all trademarks of their ancient feline forebears.  

Cat play is educational

Cat play is also closely tied to adult to kitten education. Cats use play to teach their kittens the essential behaviours, like stalking, pouncing, defence and aversion, that they will need to live their best nine lives.   

cat playing and jumping

Cat play provides exercise

For our fur babies, cat play behaviour provides an essential source of exercise. We may have developed cats to live by our side indoors or safe within a secure outdoor cat enclosure, but we thankfully have not diminished their adventurous and playful instincts. All cat play behaviours provide your kitty with good daily exercise, keeping them happy and healthy and ready to pounce on any unsuspecting hoomans or fur-sblings.

Cat play provides mental stimulation

Cats are clever and cunning creatures that require mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. Play behaviours, especially those that incorporate puzzle toys or climbing, keep your cat mentally stimulated and less prone to destructive behaviours caused by feline stress or anxiety.

Cat play helps fur-siblings bond

In homes with multiple cats, play behaviour can be used by your kitty to bond and communicate with their fur-siblings, establishing boundaries and social hierarchy. Not sure if your cats are playing or fighting? Check out our guide here for how to tell the difference.

Now that you know why cats play, pop on over and find out how cats play here. Regular playtime is just one way to keep your kitty in shape. Have a peek at our guide to giving your cat the exercise it needs here.


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