What do cats like to play with

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cat layabout
Do not let your cat be a layabout. They need to play!
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Keep your feline's instincts keen by providing the right toys for playtime

Cats are naturally frisky, playful creatures.  When they are very young, they will chase, bite, and pounce on just about anything that moves!  Older cats like to believe they are more refined, but that wild urge to pursue their prey is always there, just behind the eyes.  And rightly so; play fulfills a number of very important functions for a feline, at any stage of life. 

The Benefits of Play

Like children, kittens learn their earliest life lessons during playtime (which, in a kitten’s day, is any time they aren’t eating, sleeping, or cuddling).  They learn to stalk and pounce.  They learn when and how to retract their claws, when and when not to bite, and how to overcome a kitty half-nelson (whether they’re playing with other kittens, or a big human hand).  At this stage, they are learning to socialize, testing their boundaries, and finding their way in the big bad world. 

As cats grow older, they may calm down a little, but their need to interact with their human companions, and of course, to chase and destroy, is no less keen.  In fact, depending on the temperament and health of the feline in question, the amount of time you spend playing with your pet may be crucial—even life saving. 

In a shy or mistrustful animal, play can strengthen the bond between her and her human(s).  It can also play a crucial role in forming closer bonds between warring felines of the same household.  Overweight felines will benefit from the exercise of active play, as well as boosting their spirits and stimulating their potentially bored minds.  If your pet seems devious or out of control, having focused regular play sessions can help your feline learn where your boundaries lie while expelling excess energy. 

There is no way around it, they need you to play with them; you need to keep most of your own skin intact, with a minimal amount of blood loss.  This is where the toys come in.

Picking the Right Toys

For your domesticated feline, there are two primary kinds of play:  social play and solitary play (sometimes also known as “object” play). During social play, cats interact with other cats or their human companions. 

This is prime bonding time which should be taken advantage of whenever possible.  One easy way to get the games started is to enlist certain enticing toys. Pole-toys, the kind that look like fishing rods with feathers or small stuffed objects dangling from them, are always a hit. They keep your cat engaged as you bounce, drag, and wiggle the bobble at the end of the line, meanwhile, your hands stay safely out of the way of eager claws.  Laser pointers serve a similar purpose, allowing your pet to chase the red dot without anyone getting hurt. 

For solitary play, cats love to bat objects across a room and run after them.  Anything from small balls (with or without jingles) to crumpled pieces of paper or small stuffed toys will do, so long as they're light enough to glide or skitter across the floor.  You can also tie up small toys to a door knob or some other stationary object for him to attack and bat at their leisure. 

Another must for a happy pet is the climbing tree.  These are large structures made of sturdy wood and,  typically, covered in low pile carpet and sisal rope, though the covering can vary.  Like a kitty jungle gym, the best trees have multiple cubbies in which they can hide, two or more levels on which to perch (for multiple pets, the more levels the better), and can even have objects dangling from random spots to be attacked at will. 

An added bonus is that good cat trees double as dedicated scratching posts, keeping their nails, and your furniture, in tip-top shape for years to come. 

When in Doubt, Reach for the Catnip

The last honorable mention in the toy realm isn't really a toy at all.  It is, rather, a handy little herb called catnip.  Catnip is a safe, even healthy addition to your feline's life, which works as a powerful feline attractant.  You'll find catnip stuffed toys in any pet supply store, and you can even buy it dried in bulk or grow your own. 

While there are a few exceptions (some felines are simply not sensitive to the active properties of catnip), most are immediately attracted to this herb and will claim immediate ownership over any object imbued with its essence.  If your feline friend shows no interest in the new climbing tree sitting in your living room, try rubbing it down with catnip, and you may well find Fluffy changing her tune. 


ASPCA: Cats Who Play Rough

The Humane Society of the United States: Cat Toys

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