Eight great games to play with cats

Great games to play with cats: Cat stalking thrown ball
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Finding fun games to play with cats is a rewarding experience. It not only keeps your furry friend exercised and mentally stimulated, it also gives you a great chance to bond with the feline in your life. Cats need distraction to help prevent them getting bored, and boredom can lead to them getting stressed which can cause behavioural problems. Make their day – and yours! – by breaking up their standard regime with an unexpected play session. There's nothing cuter than getting your cat acting curious by your antics, and it will bring you closer together.

Although they often have a distracted and aloof air, cats enjoy playing with their owners as much as our canine companions (and if you have a multi-pet household you can see some fun distractions for them in our round up of indoor games for dogs). You may be worrying that you may not have the space or the spare bucks to properly entertain your furkid, but we've got you covered – our suggestions won't break the bank and will work in apartments as well as mansions!

When it comes to distractions, cats are easy to please. Yes, you can invest in the best cat toys, but most of the options on our list you can recreate using DIY options. The only thing this will cost you is time - This means you can break your buddy's boredom without breaking the bank!

So from puzzles to lazers, feathers to fetch, here are some great games to keep your kitty entertained.

1) Interactive puzzles

Nothing stops boredom like challenging your kitty to find cat treats – it plays on their instinctive inquisitive behavior and those hidden tasty tidbits are a great motivator. You can create your own puzzle by cutting a few different sized holes in an old box – shoe boxes are perfect – and then putting a few treats and some of their favourite toys inside. Tape down the lid, and then introduce your furkid to the box. They will love trying to get at what's inside!

Of course, if you don't have the time to make your own, you can invest in one of our recommended range of the best cat puzzle feeders. These are designed to tax your furry friend's mental and physical capabilities to retrieve the food they crave. They are also good for ensuring your cat doesn't get obese as they have to work to get fed. Just fill them with dry cat food and watch the entertainment as your kitty tries to figure how to get at it.

2) Hide-and-seek

Being the curious little creatures that they are, most cats can’t resist the tantalizing temptation to engage in a round or three of hide-and-seek. While it might be pushing it to ask your furkid to go hide while you turn around and count to 10, it works beautifully the other way around – without the kitty counting that is!

If your cat is new to hide-and-seek, start by playing at mealtimes. Hide behind a couch, desk, bed, or door and call your kitty. Once they find you, reward them with a treat and then move to a harder spot. Not only does it make mealtimes more fun but it also engages your furkid’s natural predatory instincts, allowing them to stalk you in the same way they would a bird or mouse.

3) Fetch

Tabby cat playing with orange toy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It turns out that dogs aren’t the only ones who like to play fetch. For best results, you’ll want to have a few catnip toys on hand for this game – this won’t just make it more fun for your furkid, but it will also up the amusement stakes for you too.

Choose a toy that you can throw across the room and that your kitty can easily fit in their mouth to carry back to you. You can play this indoors or outdoors, just make sure that anything breakable or valuable is safely stowed away before you start.

Throw the toy across the floor and watch as your cat bounds after it. While they’re not always as good at bringing the toy back as dogs are, using a praise and reward system where they get a ‘good girl/boy’ response and a treat when they return it to you, can help reinforce the behavior.

4) Feather and string

An oldie but a goodie, a simple feather on a string can provide your cat with hours of fun – and give your arm a good workout in the process. You can either purchase a feather cat toy or you can make your own DIY cat wand with a stick, some string, and a feather. 

Wave the wand above your kitty’s head and watch as they try to grab the feather. You can trail it along the ground, swish it around under furniture, or even move it over their cat scratching post and watch them clamber up to try and reach it. 

5) Laser fun

The best laser toys for cats are guaranteed to provide endless entertainment and while playing games together is always more fun than flying solo, laser toys can be a great tool when you’re looking for something to keep your cat amused while you’re busy. 

While some pet parents worry that laser toys may be doing their furkid more harm than good, rest assured that laser toys designed for cats are safe and most come with automatic timers that will shut the toy off after 15 minutes.

Lasers are another great way of engaging your cat’s predatory instincts, allowing them to crouch, stalk, chase, and pounce. You can change the settings to vary the speed of the laser and make things more interesting. 

It’s worth being mindful of the fact that chasing after a laser pointer without catching something and getting a reward, can be frustrating for some cats. Because of that, we recommend that, where possible, you end laser sessions with one of the other games in this list or dish out a few cat treats to keep your kitty satisfied.

6) Paper

Black cat peering out of brown paper bag lying on its side

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Simple but effective, crumpled paper is all it takes for some cats to go to town. This is a great game if you’re on a budget as most of us have plenty of the stuff lying around. Use a brown paper bag, newspaper, wrapping paper, tissue paper, or whatever you can find that can be easily scrunched up or has an opening that your kitty can crawl into.

For a hiding place, lay a paper bag on the floor and let your cat clamber inside. Once they’re settled, use your fingers to scratch and poke around the sides and top of the bag and watch your furkid come to life as they try to swat at the sounds and movements.

Equally fun is scrunching up lots of old bits of paper and batting them about the room. Your cat will love chasing and pouncing on the paper and you can also stuff it all inside a box with hidden treats or toys that they have to work their way through the paper to find. 

Warning: this one can be a bit messy if they start shredding paper, so you might want to have one of the best vacuum cleaners on hand to clean up all the paper and fur that may have flown about in the excitement.

7) Tablet games

First came videos for cats to watch on YouTube and now the App Store has been stocked up with a variety of games designed especially for your feline friend. Here are two of our favorites:

  • Friskies CatFishing 2 (opens in new tab) – a classic catch and release game that will see your kitty prowling for prey in the pond, racking up the points each time they tap the screen and catch a fish.
  • Paint for Cats (opens in new tab) – this one will cost you $1.99, but it’s worth it to discover if your cat has an inner artist just waiting to be unleashed. Choose one of ten color palettes and your cat will construct a painting while chasing a mouse around the screen. After they’re done, you can share their creation straight to Facebook. 

There are lots more apps available for both iOS and Android and while they’re great for engaging your kitty’s natural curiosity and playful instincts, they can also help beat boredom and reduce separation anxiety when you’re out of the house. 

8) Go for a walk

Black cat outside on grass on a lead

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Really? Taking your cat for a walk? Isn’t that a dog owner thing? We hear you and our eyebrows raised with this one too. After all, it’s not every day you see a cat and pet parent duo taking a morning stroll together, but it truly is a thing.

Believe it or not, cats can be trained to walk on a leash, and getting out for an adventure can be a lot of fun. The puppy cat phenomenon is relatively new, but more and more cat behaviorists are starting to understand that many felines enjoy a walk just as much as their canine counterparts. 

While all cats have the potential to be puppy cats, it’s particularly common in outgoing, active, and highly curious breeds like Bengals and Abyssinians who are usually more than happy to don the best cat harness and hit the trails alongside their owners. 

If you think your furkid might benefit from a little outdoor adventure, test them out slowly and see how they respond. Make sure they’re on a lead so they’re safe from cars and take a backpack with you so you can pop them inside if they get tired or encounter something that makes them feel nervous. 

For extra peace of mind, why not fit your cat with a pet tracker? Not only can they be a great way of keeping tabs on your furkid, but they can also help you monitor how much activity they’re doing. 

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.