Cats are naturally playful creatures. Once you’ve lived with a cat for a while, it becomes evident that anything can be a toy. Most cat owners have had a Christmas tree incident with their cat knocking baubles left, right and center. Here’s why playtime is so important for your cat and how playing with your fur-babies deepens the bond between you.
Why play is important for cats
As a natural predator, hunting behavior is a fundamental part of your cat’s DNA. Something small and squeaky shoots across the floor, they chase it. Playing helps simulate hunting behaviors, like stalking, chasing and pouncing, so your cat gets to be the skilled predator she is at heart.
Playing with your cat is essential, especially if you keep her indoors. In nature, cats roam for miles, climbing trees, running, leaping and jumping. At home, they have a limited space to explore, so they need alternative ways to exercise.
If your cat is bored, or not given opportunities to chase and stalk things, her mental health will start to suffer. Cats like to be active — expecting your cat to sit quietly all day, curled up in a heap, is like tying an athlete to a chair and then wondering why she’s ripping up the furniture.
Related: The Pitfalls of Feline Boredom — And How to Avoid Them
Providing your cat with plenty of play is also one of the best ways to manage problematic behavior (and stop it from occurring in the first place).If you have a cat who scratches the furniture or swipes at you, for example, you can resolve this by playing with her regularly. Chances are she’s bored and frustrated, and since she can’t tell you that, she’s trashing your home instead.
How playing with your cat deepens the bond between you
The more time you spend with your cat, the more a part of her world you become. Instead of being the strange-looking tin-opener, you become something she interacts with every day, like her favorite toy or her food bowl. She will also mean even more to you, and you will have a much closer bond.
If you have a cat with some behavioral issues or just adopted a rescue cat, playtime is the best way to get to know her and coax her out of her shell. You can see the benefits for days after a play session.
Related: 5 Ways to Make High-Quality Playtime with Your Cat
My cat, Kissy, is an excellent example of this. She was adopted about two years ago, having been out of human homes for a while. Kissy didn’t know how to handle petting or human voices, but she knew how to catch a mouse or swipe at a feather. It gave her something familiar to cling to when everything else around her was different.
Kissy is notoriously snappy and anxious. When she starts to misbehave, I make sure our play sessions are my priority. Playing lets her blow off steam, and it makes her much more affectionate toward me, and the teeth and claws go away. I always feel closer to her, too, which makes me happy.
Playtime with your cat is crucial to their physical health, but it is just as important for their mental health. No one wants an unhappy cat, and for something as simple as 10 minutes with a wand toy, there’s no reason they should be.
Top photograph: Maryviolet/Getty Images
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