10 Ways to Play With a Cat

7 May, 2007 at 5:01 pm 1 comment

Beth Adelman is a Certified Feline Behavior Consultant. She wrote these 10 tips (for pet sitters) and I really think they are worth passing on.

1. Talk to the Cat Face to Face

This may not seem like play, but one-on-one attention is very meaningful to the cat. This kind of nonphysical contact is especially important for cats who are reluctant to be touched, and is a way to reach out and build trust. It’s also a great way to start your visit with a cat who you are already friends with. Go to wherever the cat is and get down to her eye level, at a distance you would find comfortable for talking to a person. Look at her face and speak sweetly. It doesn’t matter what you say, as long as you speak softly and use the cat’s name often. Use your “cat voice” – cats prefer a soft, high-pitched voice. Your look should also be soft and not challenging – not a stare. Blink slowly, especially in response to the cat’s blinks. A blink is the cat’s way of saying, “I’m relaxed enough with you that I don’t have to keep constant watch.” When you blink back, you’re saying, ” Me too.” (If there’s more than one cat in the house, give each cat a few moments of this individual attention.)

2. Sing a Duet With the Cat

When she meows, do your best to respond with exactly the same sound. Keep echoing her as she moves from verse to verse. This is a great way to maintain contact with the cat as you go about other chores, such as scooping the litter box or preparing the meal.

3. Place a Small Treat in a Paper Cup and Put It On the Floor

Tossing a treat on the floor in front of the cat won’t do anything to stimulate her mind or her hunting instincts. Cats actually enjoy working for their food. The cat will have to either pull the treat out of the cup with her paw or knock over the cup. Either way, she’s thinking and working.

4. The Supper Olympics

Take the cat’s dry food, sit down on the floor, and toss a piece of kibble across the floor, one at a time, for the cat to chase and eat. It takes less time than you think to feed a cat a meal this way, and you have tapped into the cat’s hunting instincts and given her a good workout. If there are two cats, toss the food in opposite directions to avoid competition. You may also have to send the more dominant one farther down the hallway for each piece of food. (This is a tough game to play with just one person and more than two cats, and impossible to play with wet cat food.) Other events in the Supper Olympics include covering the food dish with a paper towel that the cat must drag off before eating (works with wet or dry), putting ping pong balls in the dish with dry food (different cats solve the problem in different ways), using a treat ball to feed dry food, sticking little bits of dry food between the coils of rope in a sisal scratching post, and feeding wet or dry food in several courses by placing it in a couple of small dishes that you set out in different rooms.

5. Put Something You Brought In From Outside On the Floor

Indoor cats crave novel experiences, and they read the outside world when they sniff something new. After sniffing may come some rubbing (scent marking), and the cat is also likely to sit on the object, if possible. These behaviors are part of the cat’s efforts to incorporate the novel object into her territory. If you crumple up a piece of junk mail, even better – you’re adding some auditory fun. Cats often locate their prey first by hearing it scurry through the grass, and the sound of crumpled paper on the floor is a good approximation that will stimulate the cat to chase and hunt. Often this can turn into a game of knock-hockey with the crumpled paper; you should definitely join in.

6. Open a Magazine or Newspaper On the Floor and Make a Cat Toy Dart Out From Under It, Then Back In

There is a temptation to move a toy towards a cat, but play should engage the cat’s prey drive and no prey animal in its right mind would approach a predator. Moving a toy under a sheet of paper is a lot like the way small prey animals dart in and out of grass, and the cat will definitely be intrigued, especially if the paper rustles a little. Don’t be discouraged if the cat doesn’t pounce; a big part of feline hunting play involves watching, waiting, and planning. As long as the cat is paying attention, she’s engaged. Make sure you let the cat catch the prey frequently.

7. Tie a Plastic Ring to a String and Pull It Under the Ottoman

The ring from the top of a milk or juice carton will do. As the prey moves and then disappears, the cat will try to stalk it and extract it from under the furniture. Keep the ring moving in and out of sight, because the constant challenge really stimulates prey drive. As with all simulated hunting games, make sure the cat has a lot of chances to catch the prey, and wind down the action rather than stopping abruptly. (Make sure you put this toy away in a secure place when you leave, because string and milk carton rings can both be dangerous if chewed or swallowed.)

8. Throw an Old Towel Over the Coffee Table

Watch how fast the cat gets under this “tent.” In fact, just being in the tent is exciting to a cat. But the game gets even better when you wiggle a cat toy under the edge of the towel (a feather works particularly well here) or ripple your fingers along it.

9. Hang Your Coat On the Back of a Chair

As with the towel over the coffee table, you’ve made the cat a tent. Cats like to hide behind something and then pop out at their prey. Hiding and waiting in a concealed position are hunting behaviors, comparable to crouching behind a rock or in a clump of tall grass and waiting to pounce.

10. Chase the Cat From Room to Room

Chasing is a form of kitten play that many cats continue to love as adults. Often they will solicit the game by standing at the end of a long hallway and looking back at you repeatedly as they take a few steps. Many cats also have specific rules about how the game of chase should be played and how far around the room or down the hall they should be chased. They will look back at you or verbally complain if you don’t follow the rules of the game. Two things to remember about chase: the cat’s tail should be up while she’s running as a sign that she’s enjoying the game (a lowered tail can mean she’s running because of fear). And while chase is great exercise (for both of you), the cat also needs a form of play that will engage her mind and her hunting instincts.


Entry filed under: cats, dry, food, play, toys, wet.

Elegantly Sick Requirements

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Estefania  |  22 May, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    one of my cats gave birth to four kittens- one of which i am head over heals in love with! reading this gave me alot of ideas on how to play with my little “Ferret” so thanks for posting it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

%d bloggers like this: