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How to Play with Your Cat

Learn how to play with your cat from board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. E'Lise Christensen, DVM in this Howcast video.


If you have a cat at home, you probably want to know the best way to play with them. Well, that depends on your cat, but there are certain things you should do and certain things you certainly should not do. The first thing not to do is to play with your cat with your hands. It's really common, especially for guys, but not just the men in our lives to grab cats by the head and shake it as part of a play routine. Don't do that. Some cats like it, but many others also get distressed by it and it can encourage them to be aggressive during play. In addition, some people try to get their cats play by patting their cat's belly. Since most cats don't like being pat on the belly, instead what you can get is a combination of conflicted behavior of "I want to play but I really want you to knock that off".

So, instead, focus on getting toys that your cat can play with that are similar to what a cat's predatory prey will normally be like. For instance, this toy right here is actually a short version of a wand toy. They make many different wand toys. I like this one from Neko Flies because you can attach different toys to the bottom so that it's always interesting for your cat. Cats a lot of times really enjoy things that are small and fluffy and things that look like insects.

That's probably because those are common things that a cat would normally eat out in the wild. So, get yourself a remote toy like this one and decide if your cat is interested in playing. At this time, with our little fellow here, she's really more interested in being patted right now. But, you can also see that she's paying attention to the toy itself. It's important to remember that even if your cat is not actually chasing a toy, if they're looking at it and interested in it you're still providing some enrichment. So, don't be discouraged. Other toys that cats find interesting are crank little balls, like this one. She just wants to bond on it right now. Cat needs stuffed mice. And of course you can find all sorts of cat stuffed toys everywhere. Many cats like to play fetch with these. Balls that have bells inside since many cats like to interact with their environment like noise, as a lot of people know from the cats waking up at 2AM. Little motorized toys that are made for kids like this Hexbug. This is a fun toy because even though you need to play with it with your cat with supervision, it does move in a very erratic manner. And erratic toys keep cats interested.

Many people also enjoy playing with their cats with laser pointers. But keep in mind that laser pointers can be frustrating because cats don't always get to catch the laser. There's nothing to touch. So, if you do play with your cat with the laser pointer, make sure to end the game on a small stuffed toy or something that your cat can actually grab. If you do those things I'm sure you're going to have a great time playing with your cat.

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