Importance of Play for Cats

Is your cat getting enough playtime?

Playing isn’t just about fun, it also provides health benefits to your pet. Play helps your cat exercise his/her natural hunting instincts. Ever wonder why your cat howls at night when you are trying to sleep? Or why your cat destroys furniture or becomes aggressive with other pets or even you?  Chances are if you are experiencing behavior challenges with your pet, it’s because of a need for more stimulation and exercise.

Healthy, well-adjusted cats not only enjoy play; they need it. Interactive play provides both mental and physical exercise. There are many reasons why an active cat is a happy cat!

Play helps satisfy a cat’s natural instincts.  As a predator, your cat has natural instincts to scratch and sharpen their claws.  They also have natural urges to hunt, catch and kill their “prey” whether that be a mouse or a toy.  Indoor cats still have these instincts, they don’t go away.  The key to a well-behaved cat is understanding their instincts and fulfilling their needs in non-destructive ways.

A bored cat or cat that lacks proper stimulation and training can become destructive and even aggressive, particularly in a multi-cat household.  Kitties are territorial by nature and just like humans, they have distinct personalities.  Not ever cat will get along.  Couple that with a lack of interaction and proper training and they are more likely to fight.

Regular interactive play enhances the bond between cat and human and can even help cats bond with one another.  Set aside time each day to interact with your cat.  There are a variety of toys that you can use to simulate the hunt.  Dangling toys are great for really getting in a good physical workout.  Younger cats, in particular, will be more apt to jump and run after toys that are dangled in the air for them.

Other cats prefer to hunt low to the ground.  Drag a toy or roll a ball so they can track it and hunt it.  Whatever method you use, always allow your cat to “catch” their prey and bite it.  It provides the satisfaction of the kill and helps them wind down after a play session.

Carefully planned play sessions can improve your cat’s sleep schedule and help you coordinate it with your own.  If your cats like to meow or howl a lot when you are trying to rest, a good daily play time can help immensely.  If they are tired when you are, they will sleep.

Play stimulates the mind and prevents boredom also.  If your cats are destructive and shred furniture, jump up and knock things down etc. it may be time to introduce a different feeding and play schedule.  Also, train your cats to only use specific toys to sharpen their claws.  If they are drawn to clawing your couch, place a cardboard cat scratching toy on the ground near that location.  When they start to scratch, tell them NO firmly and then place them on the scratch pad and encourage them to scratch there instead.

Cats have a natural need to clean and sharpen their claws.  This behavior can be controlled with patience and persistence.  Many people mistakenly believe that cats can’t be trained and don’t require the same attention, exercise, and schedules that dogs do, but they actually benefit from it and so will you!

Good luck and happy playing!


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