Watching your cat bat at a ball or chase a wand toy is as cute as can be. But did you know that play is important to your cat's overall health and wellbeing? Play for humans isn't the same thing as it is for cats. Cats are hunters by nature, and when they are cooped up inside a house or apartment, their instincts need an outlet. That is where play comes into the picture. Play gives cats a chance to relax, to hone in one their hunting skills, and burn energy. Below are some tips for playing with your cat is ways that will make the most of your time together.
Cats are born hunters, but at home they don't have to kill for their food. Instead, they meow when they want to be fed and eat from a bowl. That instinct to hunt for their food does not go away, which is why it's important to approximate cats' hunting patterns with play. Even when hunting – cats will catch and release their prey multiple times. They do this because the thrill of the hunt is the best part of, well, hunting. They like to be in pursuit of their prey almost as much as they like catching it. Play that approximates this catch-and-release instinct speaks to the cat's prey drive. Toys like wands, which you can move back and forth, and toys that have components that "disappear" are excellent choices for appealing to this instinct.
Do your cats always get along? Sometimes there's tension in the hierarchy if you have more than one cat, and they can go after each other. Or if one cat is dominant, he might make life difficult for the other. Getting your cats to play together with you can help break that tension. One cat might turn his prey drive on the other cat, in which case it's important to refocus that cat's energy. Playing with your cats together can help them bond more with each other and with you.
The answer to this question will vary depending on the age of your cat, but experts generally recommend an hour of playtime per day. This does not mean that you have to play with your cat for an hour straight. Rather, you can break up playtime into small sessions throughout the day. Cats can get bored just like we do. Scattering play sessions throughout the day is a great way to keep your cat from getting too bored, and it's a great way for humans to relax too. When cats don't get enough exercise and play, that pent-up energy can come out in other ways – think scracted furniture and broken vases.
Play is an essential part of cats' wellbeing. Playing with your cat for an ample amount of time each day will help keep your cat calmer and better behaved. It will also make for a more peaceful home, especially if you have more than one cat.
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