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Tips From A Fox Lake, IL Veterinarian: Top Reasons To Play With Your Cat

February 15 2024

One thing we can say for sure about our feline pals? They are very, very entertaining and fun little pets. Fluffy may be small, but she has a huge personality, and has been making us laugh for years with her cute quirks, charming facial expressions and, of course, her playful antics. As it turns out, taking time to play with your cat every day is one of the best things you can do for her. Read on as a local Fox Lake, IL vet lists some of the main reasons to play with your cat.

Do Cats Like When You Play With Them?

Kitties are all very unique. There likely are some cats out there who just aren’t very interested in play. However, that would be the exception, rather than the rule. Most of our feline pals are naturally playful, and really enjoy those play sessions.  

Is It OK To Play With Your Cat?

It’s not only okay to play with your cat: it’s actually good for her! We all know that kitties enjoy batting little balls around or pouncing on catnip mice. What you may not realize is how beneficial these things are for your cute pet.

Here are a few of the reasons that playing is ‘pawesome’ for Fluffy: 

1. Exercise: Our feline pals are very frisky and active when they are young. However, as they age, they run out of steam. It’s just as important for Fluffy to keep fit as it is for us. Running, jumping, and pouncing all make great kitty workouts. This can keep your furball strong and healthy as she ages. Ask your Fox Lake, IL vet for specific advice.

2. Stimulation: You may have noticed that cats seem to really enjoy doing as little as possible. Fluffy can sleep up to 20 hours a day. (That seems a bit excessive, but we’ll discuss that another time.) When your kitty is awake, she needs something to do other than stare at the walls. That mental stimulation your pet gets from playing is great for her mind. Your tiny lion has to really focus to time those pounces and jumps. This not only helps keep her happy and entertained, it may even help keep her brain healthy as she grows older.

3. Bonding: When you grab that laser pointer or wand toy, your feline friend will know that you’re doing something for her benefit. That can go a long way towards helping her feel loved and safe! 

Playing can also help kitties bond with each other. If you’ve recently adopted a new cat, dual play sessions can help your resident cat or cats form a positive association with their new roommate. Just be sure not to play favorites.

4. Ease Anxiety: Just like people, cats can feel scared, lonely, or depressed. A good play session gives Fluffy a chance to blow off some steam. Think of it as your pet’s version of sweating off a bad day by hitting the gym or going for a run. 

5. Build Confidence: Kitties all have their own purrsonalities. Some are bold and fearless, and others are, well, scaredy cats. If your furry pal falls into the latter category, playing may help her feel more confident. Nailing that tricky pounce can be a big deal for Fluffy!

6. Natural Instincts: Our feline friends may be cute and small, but they are actually extremely efficient hunters. Fluffy relies on her hunting skills to survive in the wild. While mastering the use of those sharp claws and teeth is fun for her, it’s also just very instinctive. In other words, playing gives your furry friend a chance to unleash her inner lioness.

7. It’s Cute: There’s no denying that watching a frisky kitty hard at play can make for an adorable and amusing form of entertainment. Cats are extra adorable when they’re feeling silly. 

How Much Should You Play With Your Cat?

This one is really up to you and Fluffy. We would recommend playing with your feline friend daily, for at least a few minutes. One thing you don’t have to worry about is overdoing it. This is one area where cats and dogs are quite different. Fido will drive himself to the point of exhaustion to please his humans. Cats, on the other hand, don’t care what we want. The moment your kitty loses interest or gets tired, she’ll just walk away and turn her attention to her next nap. 

That all said, part of this will depend on how young and active your pet is. A kitten or a super frisky young adult will want to play much more than a senior. However, playing does benefit older cats as well.

What Is The Best Way To Play With Cats?

Ideally, you’d want to use something you can control from a distance, such as a wand toy, laser pointer, or even a remote-controlled toy. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, playing will be more fun and more challenging for your cat if she can’t anticipate what her ‘prey’ is going to do next. 

The other reason is that it’s just better petiquette, and can help instill good manners. It may be cute to let Fluffy pounce on your toes or fingers, but that can send mixed signals. You don’t want your feline pal thinking that it’s okay for her to attack you!

What Should I Not Do When Playing With My Cat?

Playing with Fluffy isn’t rocket science, but there are a few things cat owners should know. The biggest don’t would be don’t play rough. Fluffy may have fun ‘kick-scratching’ your arm, but aside from that, you would run the risk of scaring or even injuring your kitty. You could also inadvertently encourage bad behavior. We also caution against using your fingers or toes, for the same reason.

Next, be sure to use safe toys. Cats don’t know what is and isn’t safe for them. Some of them also seem to be most drawn to the objects that are least safe. Anything small or sharp is a hazard. Stringed objects are also dangerous: these are choking hazards, and can cause very serious internal injuries if ingested. Wand toys are of course fine, but you will need to take care not to leave them out once playtime has ended. You don’t want your kitty getting tangled up.

Also, don’t play with your pet around potential hazards. That includes things like stairs, pools, and fireplaces. If possible, choose a spot with a soft surface, such as a carpet.

Last but not least, if you have more than one cat, don’t play favorites. Show them both equal attention during playtime.

Is My Cat Trying To Play With Me?

Kitties can be a bit confusing, in that it’s sometimes hard to tell if Fluffy is being playful or if she’s angry. Watch her body language and behavior. If she’s feeling frisky, she may get a bit zoomy. Playful cats may also ‘ambush’ their humans, perhaps by hiding behind the sofa and running out as you walk past. A polite, well-behaved kitty also won’t bite or scratch very hard. She may lose interest in her ‘attack’ and start licking you instead.  Of course, cats can change gears quickly, but that’s just part of the fun and mystique of these charming furballs.

Do you have questions about caring for your cat? Contact us, your Fox Lake, IL pet hospital, anytime!