Playtime is one of the important things any responsible cat owner should be doing! Whether you play with your cats in the morning, afternoon, or evenings, we hope you schedule in dedicated play time with your feline friends! Despite how often they sleep every day, cats are curious creatures and thrive off of mental stimulation. From sitting at a window and watching birds flit by to playing with a new crinkle toy to burrowing into a cardboard box, all of these can be ways of ‘play’ that keep your cat’s mind, and body, active which leads to overall better health.
How playtime looks can vary from cat to cat. It will take trial and error to discover what your cat(s) like and there are also so many types of toys but one important thing to remember is that playtime should simulate prey to trigger your feline’s inner hunter instincts. By having your cat “chase” a toy or “hunt” a mouse at the end of a wand, you’re helping them to engage and even if your cat doesn’t actually chase the toy, if they’re attention is on it, their mind is already locked and being stimulated just from “stalking” their prey/toy. Playtime with cats also doesn’t need to necessarily mean your cat needs to be jumping from wall to wall for one hour straight. You may play with your cat for 5 minutes, pause, play again for another 5 minutes, pause, and so on. As your cat gets older, they may also not be as active as when they are younger and your play may be less intense but the important thing is that you are still engaging in stimulating their mind!
But why is playtime so important? When your cat’s mind and body gets active engagement, it leads to better health overall. Playtime is a way for cats to expend energy and their curious minds thrive off being fulfilled by play. A cat that is often bored is not a happy cat and can often lead to anxiety or destructive behavior. Have you ever wondered why a cat may just start knocking things off a counter? Most likely, it’s because they’re bored and the sensation and sounds that comes from knocking things down alleviates their boredom. Here is a short interview from Maritza, our Animal Care Operations Supervisor, discussing more the importance of play!
How often/long should I play with my cat?
Maritza: It is recommended at least 1-2 hours of playtime each day. Playtime with your kittens or cats can improve their mental health, which can lessen anxiety and destructive behavior.
How does play time change as my cat gets older?
Maritza: As your pet gets older, they may or may not slow down. It all really depends on your personal pet. We have cats that are double digits in age and you could never tell if they were one year old or 14. On average however, with age, cats do tend to slow down and may not be able to play for as long as they used to. Just make sure you interact with them daily and provide other forms of enrichment such as treats or having stuff around the house that keeps their mind enriched such as scratchers or toys that have treats in them so they have to think and play around to get the treats out. Your older cats might not be able to jump as often so it is important to have cat trees with extra shelves and not too high.
How does play time differ if I have more than one cat?
Maritza: It’s not much different, just make sure to do activities that will include both. Now, there might be a circumstance where you have different aged cats and it’s all just a matter of figuring out what each one likes and catering to that need.
What if my cat doesn’t play at all? Should I be worried?
Maritza: It all depends. Some cats are not really interested in playing more than they are in lounging around or sunbathing. Regardless however, always have interactive toys available, such as a cat scratcher and treats. Your cats may not be super rambunctious, and they may just be a lazy potato, but it is important to get them engaged in some ways. You should be worried if, from one day to another, your cat’s demeanor changes. If your cat is usually bouncing off the walls and super playful and all of sudden it changes drastically, then I would recommend seeing a veterinarian.
Anything else you would like to mention?
Maritza: Cats need to play just like kids do. Play helps them engage and deal with boredom. Playing with your cat can also help create that special bond between your pet and yourself. Play stimulates the natural prey instinct they have, and it helps them stay mentally fit and stimulated. Without proper mental stimulation, socialization, play or physical enrichment, any animal can and will develop bad behavior that can become a problem for the family or cat.
Maritza has been in the animal care field since she was 16 and it all began when she had to take care of a feral colony. With a degree from San Joaquin Valley College in Veterinary Technology, Maritza worked as a veterinary assistant for 5 years before dedicating her time fully to the rescue world. Shelter animal care has been what she’s always wanted to do and she can’t picture herself doing anything else. Learn more about Maritza HERE.
Valley Animal Center is dedicated to serving animal companions in the Central Valley and beyond. Our mission is to unite dogs and cats with loving people. We believe every animal deserves a loving family and furever home. Through our membership-based dog park and our low-cost clinic, we also provide local and accessible resources and services to the animal lovers and pet communities while rescuing animals in need from local animal control agencies. Donate to support our endless mission.