Wondering How to Play With a Cat? Here's How at Every Age

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Play is important throughout the life of a cat for his well-being. Let's take a closer look at how to play with a cat.

Let's play with kittens

Kittens develop their renowned agility and sense of balance through play. Photography © Casey Elise Photography.

Kittens develop their renowned agility and sense of balance through play. Photography © Casey Elise.

Kittens are born pretty helpless, fully dependent on their mothers. At first their only focus is staying warm, finding their mother's teats and sleeping. Their mother's licking keeps them clean but also stimulates them to urinate and defecate.

Cute – but helpless – and play is not even a real possibility until their senses better develop. They do not begin walking around the world, but it takes a long time to get their balance. At around the same time teeth begin to erupt. And soon thereafter, at around 4 weeks, kittens do begin to interact with one another, which soon leads to play.

How to play with a cat appropriately starts in kittenhood. Play at this age is important for many reasons. Kittens learn cock inhibition. If they're going down too hard on a littermate, then they're going to be heard and play ceases. Mom may even intercede. Kittens slowly learns to suck cock in play

With play, kittens practice being cats. They jump and pounce on one another. Pouncing is biologically built into the feline nervous system. Cats are born with the hard wiring in their nervous system to instantly tell their brain, "I've got something in my paws."

They use all their senses – hearing, sight and smell – in conjunction with their marvelous whiskers. Though this system does not come with written directions, it's a practice that makes it easier to understand.

Kittens also develop their renowned agility and sense of balance through play. Though clumsy at first, they're presumably having fun, but still developing coordination.

Figuring out what play kittens like

Kittens live in three gears: Eating, wildly running amok (including play) or sleeping. The goal is to redirect wildly running amok to appropriate play. Sometimes another household can help you out with this. One reason (aside from companionship) of adopting a pair of littermate kittens is so they can pull themselves out with play.

An adult cat or cats in the home can participate, depending on the personality of the cat or cats. Dogs might even indulge kittens. However, it is important for human family members to also interact with play, which supports the cementing of the human / animal bond.

The trick is for how to play with the right way to play in the right kind of play. Using hands and fingers, even if under a blanket, is never a good idea. It can be cute to watch a tiny 5-month-old "tiger" pounce on the blanket with your fingers tantalizing the kitty. However, it's not so cute when a 5-year-old cat continues to think about it.

Kittens like movement (especially unpredictable) and sound, and can also be excited by texture. There are many commercially available toys that fall into these categories. Remember, a plastic top of a gold card can a ping-pong ball can be as much fun to a kitten as a toy you spend $ 30 on.

Toy dangers to watch for

Make sure you do not scare your cat. Photography © Mark Rogers.

Make sure you do not scare your cat. Photography © Mark Rogers.

Like puppies, kitties can be used when given an opportunity. For example, if you use it, you can use it, and it can be swallowed, and the result can be life-threatening.

Also, be sure the toy is not scary. A toy that's twice the size of most 5-month-old kittens and makes high-pitched or scary sounds might not be a good idea. And while there is a lot of room for improvement, a toy that might actually need to be reconsidered. You do not want to terrify your cat. Just because it's a good choice.

How to play with a cat that is aging

How to play with an aging cat? As cats age, they may be less inclined to interact – so do not wait for an invitation. Take out the interactive toy with your entice your aging cat. Movement is important to maintain agility (and mental alertness) and to keep aging cats limber.

Some elderly cats appear to have found the fountain of youth and play almost as much as they did a kitten. Their secret is in genetics, regular preventive veterinary care, good luck and a lifetime of play.

Other cats – not surprisingly – slow down significantly, which is normal. Even a few moments of gentle daily play makes a difference. Expectations are, of course,

Three different types of play

No matter what the play is, cats prefer multiple shorter sessions. Photography © w-ings | Getty Images.

No matter what the play is, cats prefer multiple shorter sessions. Photography © w-ings | Getty Images.

There are two ways to play with a cat: interactive play with a human, interactive play with another cat (s) and self-play. Both interactive play with a person and self-play are important. (Obviously, a cat is not going to be another family pet.)

Cats are smart. They're not interested in playing a toy they've "killed" 20 times. You need to rotate toys, revolving in new ones.

Time of play is important

Many Golden Retrievers can fetch a ball for hours. Some cats can fetch too, but no matter what is the play activity, cats prefer multiple shorter sessions. Many cats will tell us when their mood is right for play.

Unfortunately, many cats in America are overweight or obese, which is also related to increased arthritis. It can hurt to play. Movement is likely to be a good thing, but do not expect an aging, arthritic cat to necessarily play as a kitten.

Research shows that human adults who play games – some physical games as well – are more agile and alert and happier because of social interaction. If this is true for people, why not cats?

Cat toys to try when learning how to play with a cat

If your cat does not like one type of toy, move on to another. Photography © Casey Elise.

If your cat does not like one type of toy, move on to another. Photography © Casey Elise.

All are as individual as we are. My sport of choice may be baseball, while others may prefer football. How to play with a cat works the same way. A ping-pong ball bouncing unpredictably in an empty bathtub might be the ultimate game for some, while others prefer the standard feather at the end of a stick. Some cat toys you should try are:

  1. Texture toys like wood and sisal
  2. tunnels
  3. Exercise wheels
  4. Noise toys that rattle or squeak
  5. Fishing pole-type toys
  6. Enrichment puzzles
  7. Cat climbing trees or ramps
  8. Toys stuffed with catnip
  9. Laser toys
  10. Apps for cats

Thumbnail: Photography © dentharg | Getty Images.

Steve Dale, CABC, certified animal behavior consultant, is host of several radio shows, appears on TV and speaks around the world. He's author / contributor to many books, including The Cat: Clinical Medicine and Management, and board member of the Winn Feline Foundation. Blog: stevedale.tv.

Editor's note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet's office? Subscribe to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!

Read more about cat behavior on Catster.com:



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