Felines are the only animals within the animal kingdom that hunt for pleasure. Often human fingers and toes can become the object of a cat’s hunt. Play is a very important part of a cat’s life and some cats need to play more than others to be happy. Cats are usually taught by their mothers how to play appropriately, but unfortunately some cats miss that learning experience.
Tips to Teach Your Cat to Play Appropriately:
Provide a variety of toys for your cat
By providing toys, it allows cats to direct their hunting instincts towards the toys rather than members of the household. In general, cats seem to enjoy batting at small toys, like balls and fake mice. They also like to stalk, chase and pounce on things that move like prey such as laser pointers or feather wands. Cats also enjoy toys that make sound such as crinkly toys and things that jingle (such a jingle balls). More often than not, cats enjoy the simplest items rather than the expensive toys bought from the store.
Some common household items that cats enjoy most are: pipe cleaners, paper balls, paper bags, shower rings, milk jug or soda lids and cut up toilet paper rolls. Providing your cat with new toys regularly allows for some variety, which will keep them entertained.
Twice a day, spend at least ten minutes playing with your cat.
During playtime, don’t encourage him to bat at your hands or feet. Instead, direct the play away from you by using a long dangly toy or throwing your cat’s favorite toys. Schedule play sessions to coincide with times when your cat seems most active and playful.
If your cat likes to grab your feet as you go up and down the stairs or hide under things and ambush your ankles or legs as you walk by, carry toys with you and toss them ahead of you to redirect his attention. Try to get him to focus on chasing the toys instead of attacking you.
Consistently give your cat “time-outs.”
The instant he starts to bite or scratch you, end the game by leaving the room or disengaging completely. Don’t attempt to pick up your cat and put him in another room for the time-out as this could provoke more bites. The idea behind this is that the cat will begin to understand that biting or playing rough causes the play and your attention to stop, therefore they will be more inclined to discontinue that action.
Cats don’t understand discipline the way humans do, therefore discontinuing something they enjoy when they’re behaving incorrectly truly is the most effective form of training, rather than negative feedback such as yelling or shooing them away.
Consider adopting another cat as a playmate.
If you do, choose a young, playful cat like your current cat.
Build an outdoor enclosure for your cat.
This can include branches, boxes, shelves and perches for him to navigate. If you can provide a more complex environment for your cat, full of opportunities to hunt insects and chase leaves, your cat will be less motivated to play with you.
Watch for signs of over-stimulation.
Cats can become over-stimulated when being petted or played with and may bite or scratch. Watch for subtle signs such as tail twitching or a shift in the tone of the cat’s purr or facial expression. Learn to stop touching the cat before the cat has had enough. After an incident, withdraw all attention from the cat for several minutes. Briefly expressing your hurt verbally is okay, but reassuring and petting the cat are positive reinforcements and should not be done immediately following unacceptable behavior.
Be aware of your cat’s sensitivities.
Some cats simply do not like to have their feet, stomach or other parts of the body touched, and avoiding these areas can be the best solution. However, such sensitivity can be a sign that the cat is in pain, especially if the behavior is new. In this case, it is suggested that you visit your vet to make sure your cat is in good health.
Safe Toys for Cats
- Jingle balls
- Crinkle balls
- Catnip toys
- Catnip bubbles
- Laser pointer
- A ball of paper
- Full pipe cleaners
- Plastic bottle caps
- Shower rings
- Feather wands
A safe toy is anything a cat cannot swallow easily.
Unsafe Toys for Cats
- Dental floss
It’s important to avoid string type toys as cats will often ingest these and it can cause some life threatening health complications if they do.
These toys are acceptable when used interactively but should always be taken away once the cat is no longer supervised to prevent the cat from accidently ingesting the item.