Spending quality time playing with your beloved Tiddles is as essential as playing with your child - after all, cats are not called ‘fur babies’ for nothing. But the type and quality of play is all-important.
Counterproductive play can turn your cat off, turning it into ‘grumpy cat’ and could even result in long-term behavioural problems. Whereas positive play has numerous benefits, including weight control, stress and boredom relief and a more mentally agile and happier cat.
5 Playtime No-nos
Avoid rough wrestling. Okay, so your cat may appear to be as tough as Rambo, boxing playfully with you when you swipe your hand near his face. Wrestle your cat and pin it down, though, and your cat will feel under attack and you’ll find yourself with battle scars on your wrist that make you look like you picked a fight with… errr, an angry cat.
Let your cat win the game (at least sometimes!) No one likes an over-competitive playmate with whom you can never win. Being denied the chance to succeed at the game will simply turn your cat off. Your efforts to engage will be rewarded with a look of disdain and a tail cocked in hasty retreat.
Lose the laser. Darting a laser light around the floor while you loaf lazily on the sofa will certainly drive your moggy mad for a short spell. Since cats need to catch their prey, however, they will quickly learn that ‘catching’ this red dot is not a great return on their investment. Plus the laser could in theory fry their retina and leave them with a blind spot.
Wind down playtime. Don’t call time on the game too swiftly after you’ve finally got your cat all revved up. Allow a wind-down period - this will give your cat a greater sense of achievement. And it’ll be less likely to scrag your feet as you round the sofa.
Strictly no cucumbers. Remember those viral internet videos of owners surprising their cats with a strategically placed cucumber. Do not be tempted to try this. Your cat will automatically react in fear thinking that it’s a deadly predator - a snake.
5 Winning Games Do the shoelace shuffle. No you don’t need to spend a fortune on toys; never underestimate the amount of joy your cat can get trailing a shoelace or piece of string. The shoelace mimics a mouse’s tail and so enables your rodent exterminator to hone his skills.
Think inside the box. Cats love cardboard boxes. Firstly, experts believe that they provide a safe place to hide, but they also provide the opportunity for creative game-playing. Try cutting a small hole in the side of a box and play peek-a-boo. Also scratching on the side will capture your cat’s curiosity, making him dedicated to find the source of this ‘invasion’.
Play ball. A simple piece of paper rolled up into a ball can give a cat hours of fun. Crunchy paper that makes a scratchy sound while it skittles across a hard floor surface works best. This allows your cat to train for the premier league while keeping in shape.
Don’t forget feathers. A few feathers tied with string on the end of a short stick is another home-made toy that can get your cat all a-fluster. On another plus, this should sate your cat’s natural desire to catch one of our feathered friends.
Reward play. Buy a toy, or even make one yourself, which rewards your cat with an occasional treat. A good example would be a ball with holes that you fill with small biscuits. While your cat is busy bashing the ball around, a treat will fall out every now and again. This has the dual benefits of keeping your cat interested in the game and also encourage him to use his mental agility to work out how to scam this new free food source.