While our feline furbabies are very different from their wilder cousins, they retain part of Felid family’s predatory nature. What does this mean for a house cat? It means a natural instinct to play…by hunting. This is easily achievable at home by having toys to stimulate the behaviour of capturing prey. If you start interactive play with them while they’re young, they are less likely to think on your feet and hands as toys!
The easiest way to get a cat to exercise is to stimulate play with toys! They don’t have to be expensive either. Most cats I’ve met prefer cardboard boxes and bottle caps to fancy whirly things. Literally, anything without sharp edges in your household will do! Just remember that cats can be silly, so keep toys out of reach whenever you’re not around to supervise!
Types of Toys
1. Round toys
A ball of paper or aluminium foil, a bottle cap – anything that will roll can work! Find out what your cat’s favourite toy is and place it in a cardboard box. For reasons only cats understand, this is immensely entertaining.
2. Stringy toys
There are many cat-safe string toys that you can acquire from the pet store. They usually have feathers or bells attached that bring play to another level! Be careful of ribbons and loose string as some cats will actually eat them and this can be a big problem. Cats should be under strict supervision when playing with stringy toys.
3. Light-pointing toys
Have you ever seen a cat chase a beam of light? It’s hilarious. Especially when the light disappears. You could use either torchlight or a torch light; the main benefit of lasers is that it’s easy to point anywhere in the room, making them jump and run about in the room while you laze in one position.
Be careful NEVER to point the laser directly into their eyes, though!
4. Food in toys
It is also good to imitate the action of hunting, by scattering food, and using food puzzles. Treat-dispensing toys usually only allow a treat or two to fall out each time your furbaby moves it around. This gives them the incentive to play, as it is a form of positive reinforcement, providing mental and physical stimulation. On top of that, it helps ravenous furbabies slow down, which is very nice if they tend to “forget” they’ve eaten.
Cats have sharp hearing – they have a wider range of hearing than dogs and humans. That’s why adding sound adds a whole other dimension to play! Nothing too loud though! Sounds cats seem to go crazy over seem to be: crunching paper (aluminium foil), bells, and squeaks.
Oops, I meant catnip! Catnip is a herb that stimulates cats’ smell. Roughly two-thirds of the cat population are attracted to it, so it’s definitely worth a try. It can make their play time a lot more fun! Sprinkle some over a toy and watch your cat go crazy with excitement!
One word of caution: It can result in a range of responses, so don’t go overboard when trying catnip for the first time. Some cats get really, really high.
When is the best time to exercise my cat?
As cats are crepuscular (animals active during twilight), they tend to be more active at dusk and dawn. Once again, this is also dependent on your cat’s lifestyle and habits. If you try and stimulate play time during his/her nap time, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a response. Figure out the time when your cat is most active and that will be the best time to play!
What other benefits does it have when I exercise my cats?
Exercising your cat will bring a lot of benefits not just for mental and physical stimulation. It will also help bond your relationship with your feline furbaby. Furthermore, it will help minimise unwanted behaviour like aggression, biting, and can help with feelings of anxiety
Every cat is different. Some cats will happily play with the same toy all day errday while some require a ALL THE TOYS to catch their attention.
We experienced this too! While trying to make our cat video (linked on Facebook!), we failed miserably. We spent an hour with them to get two minutes of footage. They just weren’t in the mood for it, but they do play heaps when they feel like it!
At the end of the day, what’s important is that your cat gets the exercise that they need. Take the time to understand what they’d like and, most importantly, make sure you’re both having fun!
Do you have any ideas? Share them with us in comments!