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Training & Behavior

Play and Toys for Cats

By February 6, 2024 No Comments

Play time is great for cats!

Cats who play are engaging in natural behaviors that are stimulating, motivating, and rewarding. It’s a great way to exercise, work their brain and body, and it’s fun.

There is evidence that cat play periods of 5 or more minutes, preferably 2-3 times per day, result in fewer behavior problems than play periods of one minute or less.

Toy Use and Interest

Rotate the toys you use over a few weeks – when you notice your cat losing interest in one, hide it from your cat and bring out another. This keeps the toys novel without constantly having to get new ones. Always supervise the first few times you offer a new toy. Wand toys should only be used with supervision and hidden from your cat when not in use.

Some cats may not be as interested in toys as others, so it may take a few tries before finding ones that your cat prefers. Certain cats, like older ones, might not interact with toys as much but will still enjoy and benefit from watching you move a toy around. Watch their pupils get big, their whiskers move forward, and their face as they follow the toy around the room with their eyes.

Recommended Toys

Wand Toys

Most cats prefer wand toys over others. These are the most interactive. My favorite wand toys based on years of owning a veterinary clinic for cats are the first two:

Toys to Bat Around

Toys for Self Play

How to use toys and play – tips & techniques

How people play with cats is important. Playing with toys often mimics hunting behavior. We want the toy to act like prey, so allow the mouse or other toy attached to a wand to go hide in a tunnel, around a piece of furniture, or up a corner. Also, move the toy away from cats instead of toward them, as prey would move.

Cats are generally most active around dawn and dusk, so these are great times to play with them – but if your cat is more energetic at other times, play then. Cats also prefer shorter, more intense play bouts, so pay attention to your cat’s energy level. Playing a few times throughout the day is better than having one very long playtime.

No lasers, please.

Avoid laser toys. Since cats are not able to catch the light, they are not able to complete the powerfully ingrained behavior to hunt, catch, and kill.

With a physical toy, a cat is able to touch the toy, catch it, and then bite it, fulfilling their natural prey drive. This never happens with lasers, and can cause frustration and reactivity. A great alternative is wand toys, so cats can still run and catch a real object. If your cat loves the laser, make sure that the light ends on a treat intermittently to fulfill the prey drive.

Kindly provided for Cat Care Clinic by:
Ilona Rodan, DVM, Feline Specialist and Behavior Consultant, Cat Behavior Solutions, CCBC
Julia Pinckney, MSc.
 Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare