Cats have a reputation for being aloof and low-maintenance. Even in cartoons, the cat character is more likely to lay in the sun than play with the family. In reality, however, a lot of cats are playful and social. They need regular activities and human interaction to keep them healthy and happy. The good news is, all you need to do is play with your cat.
By engaging your feisty feline in daily playtime, you accomplish more than one goal. First, you help them stay healthy and fit through gentle exercise. And while they’re burning those calories, they also get much-needed mental stimulation and an emotional release.
At the same time, giving your cat your full attention does wonders for strengthening your bond. With all of those benefits, playing with your cat is an easy choice. The only real decision you need to make is what game to play. Here are a few fun games you can play with your cat that will get them excited about playtime.
1. Fishing For Cats
Fishing rods or feather wand toys are popular cat toys for a good reason. By dangling the toy in your cat’s view, you stimulate their natural instinct to hunt, pounce, chase, and swat. Feline eyesight is designed to pick up on subtle movements, and the slight twitching of that feather triggers your house cat’s predatory instincts.
Of course, it’s all fun and games in the eyes of your cat. Keep the toy close to the ground for beginners, but if you have an energetic kitten or athletic adult, don’t be afraid to take the game up a notch. Some of the best feline gymnastics happen when a cat is leaping for a toy.
2. Food Puzzles
A recent study found that cats aren’t interested in working for their meals (they’ve come a long way from their wild roots!), but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the occasional food puzzle. Food puzzles are simple toys that stimulate a cat’s brain. You put a tasty treat inside, and your cat manipulates the toy to get to the prize.
Because treats are particularly motivating, this type of game can keep cats entertained for at least a few minutes. If your cat has never tried a puzzle feeder before, keep it simple. There are easy food dispensers at the pet store, but you can also make your own using something like a plastic container with cut-out holes or an empty toilet paper roll with the sides folded in. Sit back and watch your cat work out the puzzle to be just as entertained as they are.
Fetch isn’t only for dogs. A lot of cats love to chase down balls and other small toys that their humans throw. It’s like chasing down prey in the wild, and it gives cats a good thrill. Most cats are good at the chasing part of the game, but you might have to train them to bring the toy back.
After your cat snags the toy and has it in their mouth, call their name and coax them back with their favorite treats. Cats are smart, and if the reward is good enough, they’ll soon learn the rules of the game. Certain cat breeds, including Siamese, Ragdoll, Abyssinian, and Burmese are known for loving a good game of fetch.
4. Tunnel Exploration
Call this game whatever you want, but it’s a favorite for a lot of felines. You can use a paper bag, cardboard box, blanket, toy tunnel, or even a clothes hamper. Cats naturally like to squirm their way into these enclosed spaces, and you can turn their exploration into a fun game.
When your cat is inside their chosen object, gently scratch and poke the sides from the outside. The noise and slight movement will intrigue your cat and tempt them into playing along. They’ll try and “catch” your hand from inside their hiding spot.
5. Catch The Light
Cats can’t see certain colors, but they’re great at noticing those random reflections on the wall. Light reflected from a watch, phone screen, or any other shiny object can turn into a fun game to play with your cat.
Rotate your shiny object in a sunbeam and find where the reflection lands. From there, you can shine it on the floor and tempt your cat into a chase, or put it on the wall and see how high your cat can jump. This game encourages your cat to exercise while satisfying their urge to stalk and chase. You can also use a laser pointer if you have one, but make sure it’s a Class 2 laser that won’t harm your cat if you accidentally shine it in their eye.
6. Screen Time
You might limit the amount of time you and your kids spend looking at screens, but your cat isn’t likely to be negatively affected by playing a few phone or tablet games. In fact, there are several downloadable games that are designed specifically to engage cats and stimulate their brains in a healthy way.
Most incorporate some kind of moving prey that encourage cats to paw and pounce. There are few things more entertaining than watching your catch get excited over a few virtual mice.
7. Bouncy Balls
Bouncy balls aren’t only for kids, they’re a lot of fun for the whole family. Your cat will especially love tracking a colorful ball as it whizzes through the air and ricochets off the wall. The size and speed of small bouncy balls are perfect for engaging your cat in an active game. Simply send the ball down the hall and let your cat chase it, bat it, and have a great time.
All you have to worry about is the type of ball. You don’t want the ball to be too small and become a choking hazard. You should also stay away from the rubber kind that can be picked apart by sharp teeth or claws. If you’re having trouble finding the perfect bouncing ball, remember that ping pong balls are always a hit.
8. Hide And Seek
This can be a challenging game, but it’s one that’s fun for both humans and cats. For beginners, start with an easy-to-find hiding spot like on the other side of an open door or behind furniture. Call your cat’s name a few times or shake their favorite treat bag. When they find you, dish out a rewarding treat.
Gradually make your hiding spots harder and continue giving out rewards for successful finds. This game has the added bonus of training your cat to come when called while also strengthening your friendship.
When you’re finished playing games with your cat, and you’re both happily tuckered out, don’t forget to offer your playmate a few scratches and cuddles. Decompressing together after a rousing game is a great way to further connect with your kitty.