Cats are not supposed to be couch potatoes all day. Fortunately, there are lots of fabulous interactive activities that you can incorporate into their routine to keep them both mentally and physically engaged. Plus, playing with your cat is a great way to spend quality time together. Here are four games to play with your cat.
1. The Treasure Hunt
When I know I am going to be out for several hours, I like to set up a treasure hunt of both toys and treats for my cats Ziggy and Fudge to discover while they are home alone. I have found that the best “hiding” places are their favorite snooze zones around the house. I also hide treats at the base of scratchers and randomly near favorite toys. However, I must admit that this is more of a seasonal game because in summer, when there are ants about, this can bring on an infestation.
2. The Wiggly Wand
We adopted Ziggy when he was 8 weeks old. On the way home from the animal shelter, we stopped at the pet store and stocked up on a variety of toys. Right from the get-go, he was totally fixated by a wand toy with a bell and feathers on the end.
He instantly went into pounce and prey-catching mode, and wand toys have remained his absolute favorite. I love them, too, because it’s such a great way to interact with a cat.
I quickly learned that, actually, he is one of those cats who doesn’t really like feathery things; he prefers wands with little bug shapes that wiggle, instead.
When Ziggy and I play, I always make sure that I move the wand across and away from myself to prevent him from accidentally coming forward and clawing me. He also loves it when I let it trail along the ground. He will get low to the ground, go into pounce mode and then suddenly lunge at it. I let him hold it and gently wriggle the cord to try and recreate the movement a critter would make in trying to escape feline claws. (You have to be gentle in order not to hurt tiny teeth biting down on the bug, too.)
I also discovered that if you play a while and then throw the entire wand a short distance, he instantly goes rushing after it and brings it back to me to continue the game. Some cats in fact love to play fetch. It isn’t just a dog thing!
We play with his wands (yes, by now he has lots of different ones) several times a day. And when I get too engrossed in work, he will bring a wand toy to me at my desk and gently paw my leg to let me know he is there and that it’s time for a play break. Cats usually tire of a game after 10 minutes, so it’s really easy to stop and play and then get back to what I am doing.
3. Laser Tag
A game with a laser is a great way to initiate feline exercise. Again, it’s a nice way to engage with both Fudge and Ziggy … and it’s really easy to, say, have a cup of coffee while commandeering the red dot around the room.
Lasers rev up a cat’s prey drive as they dart around after the dot. I always make sure the beam rests in a spot long enough for them to pounce and try to capture the “prey.” I am always careful to never shine the beam directly at their eyes. And I always end each game by placing treats in a certain place and then directly them there with the laser so that they finally get to catch something at the end of the game.
4. The Kitty-Condo Amusement Center
Because cats love to be high up in a room and look down on things, I have turned one of the taller kitty condos we have into an amusement center for the cats by hiding little catnip mice on different levels and adding some crinkly paper toys that dangle down. This way they can lie on a lower lever and reach up and engage with the toys on their own.
If you are planning on buying a new kitty condo, make sure it encompasses three important features: space to sleep, a hidey hole compartment for some privacy and a scratching area for cats to engage in this innate need.
“Converting” your cat tree into cool amusement center also makes excellent use of vertical space in your home.
There are also specially designed cardboard boxes that interlock so you can build a fun play center. They have cutouts so that cats can tunnel around inside them, too. Because cats love cardboard, this can be a fun way to set up a play space in the home. Also, you can tear it down and rebuild in another shape to keep things fresh. Again, it’s fun to hide toys inside, such as little crinkled paper or fabric-covered balls. There are balls filled with catnip and others that chirp like birds to rev up playtime, too.