The 8th of August, better known as International Cat Day, is an opportunity for cat owners and lovers alike to come together and share their best memories and tips of the cats in their lives. However, with this year’s theme of Purrfect Play – chosen by the custodians of the event, @ICatCare – it is the perfect opportunity to create some habits that can be implemented into you and your cat’s daily routine.
Playing with your cat is not only a great way to strengthen the bond you share as pet and owner, but also helps them tap into the natural instincts of their ancestors; giving them a safe outlet to express their natural hunting instincts.
Felines are natural predators and hunting is an important part of their lifestyle that they retain even when spoiled with all the treats and food they could possibly need. By stimulating your cats mind through play, it gives them an outlet to perform these instinctive actions – allowing them to let of some steam while keeping your home free of any unwanted outdoor visitors that they have brought inside.
The need to express their instinctive behaviours isn’t limited to cats in their prime, play and performing predatory actions are beneficial for cats of all life stages.
As we can all be at times, cats are big opportunists and rely on their environment providing them with opportunities to engage and play. Without external stimuli, cats can become lethargic and even act out more often. By adding play to your routine, even the laziest of cats will tap into their wild side and benefit from both the mental and physical stimulation they receive.
If your cat is not much of a natural mover, play is a great opportunity to get in some much-needed exercise and help strengthen their joints and muscles. By creating a situation where your cat needs to move, jump and change direction you are helping your cat make use of their muscles and are overall positively impacting their health.
Introducing play into your routine doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming task.
Researchers from the University of Exeter found that just 5-10 minutes of play a day resulted in 25 per cent less prey being brought into the home – reflecting a significant decline in a cats need to hunt when their natural instincts have been stimulated.
Just one of the many ways you can interact with your cat is with wand toys. Although they may seem simple to us, wands are great examples of toys that mimic prey and allow your cat to ‘hunt’ under your supervision. Because they are reasonably simple, they are also typically affordable and easy to make with existing items in your home.
When playing with your cat there are a few key tips that will help get the most out of the experience:
- Move the wand in ways that replicate prey that your cat would be hunting in the wild - utilise the air swooping up and down or drag it away from the cat in straight fast lines and slow dragging motions. These motions replicate birds or mice that your cat is innately programmed to hunt.
- Allow your cat to catch the toy to keep them engaged – ending play abruptly can lead to a frustrated cat as they haven’t been able to complete their hunting process. When you are finished with play time, allow your cat to ‘capture’ their prey to help fully simulate the experience for them.
- Put away the wand when you are finished with play time - cats can become entangled if left alone with wand toys and should always been supervised when winding down with their toys after play time.
- Play with them separately – if you have more than one cat it is important to give them their own specific play time; hunting is a solitary activity and cats don’t want others around who can steal their prize.
Just like other any other family pet, cats need daily activity to keep them stimulated and engaged. Playing with your cat a great way to achieve this while also having some important bonding time with them – as well as keeping your house free of those pesky gifts that our cats love to leave for us.