Playing with your cat to stay fit

Playing with your cat is very beneficial to its health as it encourages it to be active

It's important to play with your cat, whatever its age. Playing is good for its health, but more importantly, play can encourage cats to express their natural hunting instincts.

Why do cats play?
Your cat's playful behaviour may be endearing, but the main reason cats like to play is because they have social and hunting instincts. Cats start playing when they are 4 weeks old, mostly fighting with other kittens, establishing a pecking order. By 7-8 weeks of age, they move from social play with siblings to predatory play with inanimate objects. For the cat, play is life!

The cat plays flexibly. He tramples the ball of wool, traps it between his paws, throws the ball over his shoulder... There is a sort of false air of hunting in the game of the cat, which, since its kittenhood, confuses play with real life.

Play is a good way to exercise your cat
Playing with your cat for 20 minutes a day can have many benefits. Firstly, it will provide physical and mental stimulation, and secondly, it will strengthen the bond between you and your cat. In particular, make sure that your indoor cat uses the energy it would spend patrolling its territory and chasing prey.

Kittens and cats are most active in the early morning or evening. Play with your kitten before you go to bed, so she'll be ready to sleep when you are.

Kittens often play alone, and sometimes seem to enjoy scaring and then running away, as if being chased by an invisible attacker.

Toys are fun, of course, but interactive play, i.e. with your owner, is also very entertaining and is the best way to keep your kitten healthy and responsive to you. Make sure your cat always has toys around her, but reserve some for your play sessions with her. This makes them especially valuable.

Lonely kittens can be snappy when playing with their owners. You are her only playmate and your kitten needs to learn to control her actions.

Plan at least two good play sessions a day. Young indoor cats need to be stimulated to play up to 30 times a day to satisfy their predatory instincts. The frequency can be reduced if you have several cats and they like to chase each other and play together, or if your cat is getting older and less active.

A cat is much more interested in a toy if it wiggles under a sofa or cupboard, if it has just hidden under a carpet, or if it makes hasty movements. Make your toy behave like a mouse!

What kind of games for my cat?
The best games for your cat are those that use toys. Use feathers or pieces of cloth hanging from a stick, mice stuffed with catnip or mechanical toys. You can also set up a cat tree or scratching post in your home.

Once the play session is over, put the toy away out of sight so that its reappearance will generate excitement and your cat will understand that you are in charge of the sessions. Your cat's favourite games are likely to be chase games: pouncing on a mouse, catching a fish and fighting.

Channeling aggressive play
If your kitten likes to attack your ankles, a good way to distract her is to engage her with one of her toys.

Catnip heaven

Catnip can really 'spice up' your play sessions with your cat. It's a natural herb (valerian) and is safe for your cat.

Most cats love catnip, although some are completely indifferent to it. Catnip can be found in some toys, or you can buy it in pet shops to rekindle your cat's interest in a particular toy. Many kittens develop a sensitivity to catnip around the age of four months.

Your cat will also enjoy eating this beneficial herb, especially to help get rid of swallowed hair clumps when grooming.

 

cat scratching post with bed