Cat play is an absolute necessity when living in a multiple-cat household! Regular playtime can mean the difference between living with a group of happy, well-behaved little friends and living with a bunch of bad-tempered little hooligans!
Cats have a strong need to hunt. It is a part of their being, of who they are. Cat play that mimics a cat’s hunting behaviors has a direct and positive influence on their mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
During the hunt, stalking prey and anticipating its movements exercises a cat’s mind and improves mental acuity. Chasing, leaping, and pouncing on prey exercise a cat’s body and improves physical health. And the successful capture of prey helps to improve a cat’s confidence and emotional well-being.
House cats are like mischievous children. If they don’t have anything to do, they tend to relieve their boredom by getting into trouble. Fighting with each other, tearing up the furniture, and peeing on the walls are common methods that cats use to get rid of pent-up energy and stress. A key concept to remember when living in a multiple cat household is “A Tired Cat is a Happy Cat!”.Studies have shown that interactive cat play, even just 10 – 15 minutes a day, can help to minimize negative behaviors within a group of cats. There is less fighting with each other, less destruction of furniture, and less peeing on the walls! – a definite bonus!
Incorporating regular playtime for your cats each day will help to make them happier and healthier – and easier to live with! So the question is, how to create playtime that makes ALL of your cats happy.
There are 2 basic types of cat play that mimic hunting behaviors. Solitary play and interactive play.
Solitary play is when a cat plays by himself. Examples include batting a treat ball, flinging a toy mouse, and scooping things out of a puzzle box. These types of activities mimic the behaviors cats exhibit when playing with caught or trapped prey.
Chasing their own tail, running full speed through the house for no apparent reason, and focusing intently (with butt wiggling!) then pouncing on something we can’t see, (something most every cat owner has seen and wondered about!) is also considered solitary play!
Our cats will, on occasion, catch a small rodent or big bug and bring it into the house – presumably to show off. They will fling the thing into the air, bat it around, and dig their prize out from behind or underneath something. One will even steal it and go running off with it! A short time later, the original hunter will return with his prize to start the process all over again!
Since life (or once lived!) prey is not a preferred toy for us humans, treat balls, ping-pong balls, fuzzy mice, crumpled paper balls, Crinkle Balls, Cat Tracks or Rings, puzzle boxes, and stuffed catnip toys are all good choices for encouraging solitary cat play. Basically, anything a cat can swat, carry, fling, kick, or scoot using only “paw power” make for good solitary play toys.
The other type of play is perhaps even more important to keep a house full of cats happy – Interactive cat play. Interactive play involves toys that are powered using mechanical or battery power or human power. By far, human-powered toys are the best cat toys!
Human-powered cat toys, such as fishing pole-type toys, most closely mimic the movements of live prey. But more importantly, interactive play improves the emotional bonds between you and your cats.
During interactive play, you can’t help but talk to the cats, voicing praise and encouragement, and even laughing at their antics.
Playing with cats is a happy activity that makes both you and your cats feel good, creating positive “vibes” that both you and your cats transmit to each other. You feel happier, they feel happier – it’s a positive, happy time and healthy for all of you!
The only real problem with the interactive play is that you will likely wear out before your cats do! This is one reason why both interactive and solitary cat play is important to both you and your cats.
When using fishing pole-type toys, wiggle them along the ground and up the furniture, make the feathers or fuzzy toy fly. Use lots of stops and start motions. These motions will mimic live prey the most and give your cats plenty of physical exercises as well as help to keep their focus on the game which exercises their minds.
It is also important to allow them to catch the prey once in a while, hold on to it for a short time, then pull it away. In the wild, cats often catch, lose, then re-catch their prey several times before finally killing and eating it. Allowing them to catch the prey helps with their self-confidence and suddenly yanking it away helps to keep them from getting too cocky!
When playtime is winding down, let them catch the prey and keep it as though the thing is dead. Then give them all a treat. In the wild, once the prey is finally caught and killed, the cat gets to eat. Giving them a treat at the end of playtime mimics this natural behavior.
Keep their toys locked away where they can’t get at them all the time and rotate the toys they get to play with. This goes for both interactive and solitary play toys. This helps to pique their interest and keep them from getting bored with the same old things.
We keep the majority of our cat’s toys in a footlocker. Whenever we open it, the cats come from everywhere anxious to see what toy we will be getting out for them. Our cats really look forward to their playtime and tend to get obnoxious if they feel we have forgotten. Some start following us around and getting in our way, others will start bringing us things like a piece of paper, a toothbrush, or even a shoe! And still, others will start climbing up our pant legs (or bare legs in summer – ouch!) to get us to stop what we are doing and start playtime.
You may need to experiment with different toys to find the ones your cats enjoy the most. Most of our cats love fuzzy mice and crinkle balls but Murry’s absolute favorite toy is a small, crumpled paper ball! He will come from out of nowhere when he hears paper crumpling and loves to play fetch with them!
Buddy’s absolute favorite toy is DaBird! He goes crazy when we pull it out of the toy box, pushing all of the other cats out of the way to get at it. And he will run off with it if we don’t keep a hold on it!
Freddie and Marty love the fuzzy catnip kickers and Wendy’s favorite toy is a fuzzy ball which is no longer a ball because all of the insides were pulled out!
You just never know what toys your cats will enjoy. And because they are easily bored, it is always a good idea to have a variety of cat toys for them to enjoy.
By incorporating cat play into their daily routine, our house full of cats stay happier and healthier. They fight with each other less often, their appetites remain healthier, and they are less inclined to pee on our pillows when we leave the house!
While not the answer to everything, we have solved many issues and kept bad behavior to a minimum just by ensuring that our cats get to practice their hunting skills every day! If you live with a house full of cats, try adding playtime as part of their routine and see for yourself how much better your cats feel and act!
Go to Playing With Cats to learn how we ensure that all of our cats whether young or old, aggressive or timid, get quality playtime and discover some tips and hints to make Cat Play easier in your multiple cat household!