hen you think of play, what normally comes to mind? Barbies? Hot Wheels? Legos? Countless hours of sitting in front of a big screen TV playing Madden until the wee hours of the night? As fun as those things are for us humans, the concept of play takes on completely different meaning to your cat.
“Play” in the cat world is less about having fun and more about developing important survival skills that later in life will play an integral role to his survival. Play helps your cat maintain good physical and mental health. It also plays, pun intended, a part in developing important social skills, and no matter how much we try to convince ourselves, Madden does none of that for you and I.
In the wild, a kitten learns everything he needs to know about hunting food through play. When he sneaks up and pounces on one of his littermates, he’s learning to stalk and chase down a potential meal. As a kitten, he needs to learn all the necessary survival skills while he can so that when the time comes for him to leave the care of his mother, he can fend for himself and ensure his own survival.
Your domesticated cat is no different. Well except that he won’t be leaving the comfort of your awesome care and great home cooking anytime soon, but he still has those instinctive natural desires to hone his hunting skills just as if he were out in the wild.
To help your cat out, it’s important to make sure he has plenty of toys to keep him busy. In the wild, there are literally millions of things to keep a cat’s natural sense of curiosity satisfied. Not so much for your house cat. Especially if he’s an all day indoor cat, he can get pretty bored inside. And we all know what that means. A bored cat means a whole lot of scratched up furniture. Not good for you, your cat, or your furniture.
So here’s a few tips help make sure your cat has enough things to keep his need for play well satisfied.
Make sure he’s got access to little things that he can bat around. Little toy mice works well. I like the round kind. They are bouncier and roll around more easily then the flat ones.
And don’t forget. Cats love to strut around the house with their “prized catches” in their mouths. It’s kind of like showing off their trophy I guess. Make sure its small enough that he can carry it around comfortably, but not small enough to where he can swallow it. Use common sense here. If the toy is too big he won’t want to carry it anywhere. Plastic bottle caps work extremely well too. My cat can spend hours batting it around on the floor. Just make sure to put a barrier under the couch to prevent it from rolling under. Unless of course you have a strong back and a willingness to fish it out every time it gets stuck under there. Trust me. I speak from experience.
A lot of people recommend giving their cats yarn, but I would caution against it. I remember once I walked out of the room and when I came back my 6 week old kittens leg was wrapped tightly with the yarn. Poor little guy was meowing at me like he never meowed before. Let’s just say that was the last time I ever left him alone with yarn. It’s far too easy for a cat to get tangled up in it. He could also get it wrapped around his throat and choke himself. Please keep your cat away from yarn and if you must give it to him, please monitor him at all times, especially if he’s a young kitten.
So just remember. A young cats need for play is good both for his mental and physical well being. He gets much needed exercise and it fulfills his natural wild instinct to hunt. Both of which make a happy and healthy cat!