How to Play with Your Cat

Woman playing with cute ginger cat at home, closeup

As you read the title of this post many of you may be thinking, “mistake number one’s right there in the title…he wrote ‘cat’ when he obviously meant ‘dog’!” Well, I assure you, dear reader, that this post is indeed about how to play and the benefits of playing with your feline family member(s). Although images of fetch or tug of war with the family dog may classically come to mind when we think of play with a pet and cats are often thought of as less interactive animal companions, play can be an enriching part of a feline’s life. So let’s explore the topic…   


Why Play?

We’re all familiar with the idea, “If it’s not fun, why do it?”, highlighting the importance of enjoyment in sustaining healthy habits. Well, when it comes to playing with your cat, actively creating enjoyment that is fun and rewarding is key. With that in mind, let’s review four ways that play enhances a cat’s health…

  1. Exercise for Physical Health - The epidemic of obesity, combined with mass media marketing inundating us bipeds in our daily lives, reminds us that we need to get our bodies moving regularly. When thought of as play, exercise can shift from a tedious endeavor to an enjoyable, recreational activity for you and your cat. With 25% of cats overweight and an alarming 20% obese in America today, the need for physical activity is paramount. Whether it’s the increased cardiovascular conditioning or improved muscle tone brought by play, the benefits to a feline’s physical health are immense.
  2. Builds Confidence - It can be quite distressing to see a fearful and timid cat navigate their way through life. While some awkwardness and lack of coordination is common during rapid growth, with time, confidence should increase. However, for some cats, play can take on a big role in developing confidence and reducing timidness
  3. Strengthens Bonds - Little can rival the beauty of the relationship between a tightly bonded cat with their human. While proximity and time help the bond develop, play can be the magic ingredient to strengthen this bond. Building trust through a consistent play routine that reinforces security, while boosting physical health, is a wonderful way to bolster this connection. Cats have long been thought of as spiritual creatures through history, and science has shown that health and joy increases in both humans and felines after interaction in a safe, calm environment. We certainly experience this joy ourselves, and with studies showing cats’ oxytocin levels increased through play, this fostering of feelings of pleasure and secure attachment rises in cats as well. 
  4. Prevents Boredom - Despite cats being known as strongly independent, at times perhaps even seeming aloof, they need mental and physical stimulation just like humans. Cat boredom often results in mischievous behavior like bathroom accidents, scratching, or even aggression. Play can provide both the physical and mental engagement to prevent such occurrences. Read on for ideas on how to engage your feline...


Types of Play

While the word “play” has broad use in discourse today, for our discussion we will focus on activity which provides engagement for felines on both physical and mental levels. Another common word used for this type of engaging activity that improves or enhances the quality of life for cats is “Enrichment.” 

How do I tell if my cat would benefit from play you ask? Of course, we can’t just ask our feline companion if he or she would like to play. Fortunately, a previous blog of ours, “How to Read Cat Body Language,” can offer some insight into cat’s needs and how they’re communicated. Although endless in possible activities, generally play can be broken up into three general categories: Environmental, Social, or Cognitive Enrichment.  

Environmental - By environmental, we don’t mean recycling or limiting a cat’s carbon footprint, but rather creating a safe and engaging place for your cat to live which offers opportunity for engagement. Whether this means scratching posts available, a water bubbler, or multiple perches where a feline can view things from a different perspective, providing multiple options for recreation can provide joy. If your living situation doesn’t naturally offer much in the way of variety of sights and sounds, artificial sights through video and audio sounds can be an option! Check out an example here.   

Social - Cats have historically been thought of as stoically independent without the need for social interaction which enhances companionship, or being less communal in nature. However, despite not being traditional pack animals with a necessity to live within a group or “pack” for survival, felines are true adaptors who develop comfort from companionship with humans, canines, or other felines. While we often think of playing games when we think of enrichment, social play can be as simple as showing affection. A great option with your feline companion is regular brushing. With the added bonus of improved cleanliness and fur management, a good brushing routine offers a phenomenal bonding opportunity.

Cognitive - We’re not talking about teaching your cat to read or providing a set of math equations to fill free time, rather any activity involving physical and mental energy such as puzzles or training sessions. While offering a sense of achievement and pride for cats (it’s ok for you to feel accomplished too!), many cognitively enriching play activities can mimic a cat’s natural drives. Whether it’s a chasing, cat and mouse type of game, food hunt with a puzzle feeder, or even chasing a flashlight’s beam; cognitive play offers enjoyment to both you and your cat!     


What about Toys?

The words toy and play seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. Just like us, for cats, toys can be a great tool for incorporating play into their lives. Check out our informative guide on how you can create your own enriching toys for your feline companion here!  


Keep in Mind

Just as cats can experience GI distress with any changes in diet, modifications in routine, or additional activity (even if it’s an overall positive), change can be problematic and is always best made gradually and incrementally. For cats not currently engaged in play, it may be helpful to ensure fitness level or appropriateness of any added play with a trusted veterinarian. Remember, play is supposed to be enjoyable while enriching a feline’s life. Of course, your cat’s nutrition is another large factor in ensuring a happy and healthy life.

All of RAWZ’s minimally processed wet, dry, and topper feline options are formulated to improve feline health: Locate an authorized RAWZ retail partner near you. Or better yet, explore our site to learn more about us and our mission to improve the lives of people and pets!