Practical advice to play with your cat and stimulate its instinct

Maybe you think that your cat is lazy and not at all playful because it does not pay attention to the toys that you have scattered around the house.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
18 March 2023 Saturday 23:27
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Practical advice to play with your cat and stimulate its instinct

Maybe you think that your cat is lazy and not at all playful because it does not pay attention to the toys that you have scattered around the house. Instead, it's possible that when an insect crawls through the window or you pull a wire, your cat is suddenly ready to hunt. If you have not found the ideal formula to arouse the desire to play inside, science is clear: play is not extra care, but one of the pillars of the cat's well-being.

All cats, no matter how lazy they seem to us, need to play, just like they need a safe place to rest, an environment that respects their sense of smell, and positive social interactions. The game is the way they have to unleash their predatory behavior. In fact, in the presence of a suitable toy, cats react with the same behaviors that they would with real prey. So a slight rustle, the rapid movement of an object the size of a mouse or other stimuli will instinctively arouse their hunter's attention.

That your cat does not play can have negative consequences for it and, indirectly, also affect the rest of the family. Without toys or opportunities to play, a cat can try to entertain itself with the rest of the family or even with objects in the house, inappropriately for us. Frustration and boredom can give way to stress with all that it implies about his health and behavior. In addition, when a cat does not do enough physical activity, the risk of gaining more weight than it should increase and a vicious circle begins in which moving and starting to play becomes more and more difficult. By playing, the cat expresses its hunting skills, gets physical exercise, entertains itself mentally, and maintains a good mood.

But how can we awaken their desire to play? First we will have to understand what cats play and see what resources we can find to awaken their most playful instincts. Cats mostly play fighting and hunting. Fighting play is a type of social play that requires a playmate and begins when they are very young: it is the first form of play that kittens develop when they are only two to three weeks old and have yet to perfect their skills. sensory abilities and motor skills.

Later, between four and six months, kittens start to pay more attention to anything that is or looks like prey, even if it's just a cork. Thereafter, the predominant game becomes predatory. Then, if you find your kitten running, jumping and climbing the furniture in the living room, it is that his moment of "madness" has arrived: a locomotive-type solitary game in which the cat will unleash its energy without interacting with anything in concrete.

The different home game options for kittens include toys for them to entertain themselves. This category includes toys of different shapes and sizes, automatic toys that move on their own, toys with stimulating plant aromas, such as catnip, valerian or matatabi, and dispensing toys that encourage the cat to locate and hunt for its food. Another game option involves us directly: it is an interactive game with a person in which our role consists of moving a toy such as a fishing rod, a feather duster or a simple string, giving life to little mice or little balls, or even , in throwing feed grains for the cat to chase and catch. Also, if we have several cats and they have a good relationship with each other, it is possible that they will play together. But beware! If you don't have a good relationship, even if you get the impression that they play from time to time, it is usually not a game.

In addition, the ideal is that your environment is stimulating that allows you to behave like a cat. This means that it is possible for it to hide, jump and climb, use the vertical dimension of the house, observe the environment from a high and protected position, sharpen its nails... All this is especially important for cats that never have access to the outside and that they live in an environment where excessive predictability and few “hot news” can even be stressful.

If, despite your efforts to move the toy, you see that your cat remains standing looking at the toy, this could be due to several reasons. Have you thought that perhaps you have wrong expectations and do not recognize when your cat is playing? Kittens' play can be very subtle and their hunting technique does not consist of chasing their prey to exhaustion. If he stares at the toy you're moving, playtime has started. From this moment on, it is recommended that you move the toy as if it were prey fleeing from the cat, changing direction and speed and looking for a hiding place to take refuge. Also, to make your attempts to play with him successful, you can try playing before he has eaten.

On the other hand, when your cat is playing alone with your toys, it may sometimes need a "nudge" to get started. An immobile toy is like a dead prey, so many times it will not be enough to leave the balls or mice at its disposal. To stimulate their interest, you can carry out some tactics, among which are included: having different toys to be able to carry out a rotation, changing their "prey" places so that they find them in different places or resorting to toys that have a different shape. attractive in itself, such as food dispensers, those with interesting scents and automatic ones.

If there is something that we should never do to stimulate play, it is to touch the cat's nose with the toy. For a predator, the fact that a prey rushes up to its snout and touches it can be an alarming experience, which instead of stimulating its hunting instinct can activate its perception of danger. In addition, cats do not focus well when they are less than 25 cm from their muzzle and need to resort to other senses, such as smell and touch, to find out what is happening. If we touch the cat with the toy, we risk that our kitten will give it a paw to defend itself instead of to play. Nor is it convenient to compete with him and never let him catch his prey. If the prey won't stop sitting still and the cat has no way to catch it, the game becomes a frustrating and unmotivating challenge.

Finally, remember that, as in everything, you have to adapt to each new phase of the cat's life. Kittens and young adults start playing very easily, especially with small and light toys. On the other hand, senior cats tend to play for less time and with less intensity and lose interest more easily if the toys are always the same. The key is to understand him, to know what his favorite games are, to create an ideal environment for him and never to forget that the game is essential for his well-being.

*Sources used to make this article:

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