Looking for some fun and challenging brain games for cats that will give your feline friend's mind a great mental workout? You’re in the right place! While the best cat toys do a great job of providing your kitty with plenty of enrichment and the best automated cat toys can provide stimulation, sometimes it’s nice to mix things up a little, which is where having some brain games up your sleeve can come in handy.
Because cats are highly intelligent and curious little creatures, adding a brain game into their daily routine is a great way of enabling them to express these traits and help them thrive. Brain games are also wonderful for eliminating some of the most common cat behavior problems (such as scratching the furniture or peeing in the house) which often occur when cats are bored.
While the best automated cat toys are wonderful for those times when you’re out of the house and are looking for a plaything that your kitty can interact with independently, brain games are something you and your feline friend can engage with together, which is great for strengthening and deepening the bond that the two of you share.
To help you get started on your quest for fun, we’ve rounded up some of the best brain games for cats, including tried and true favorites like Hide and Seek and exciting new options like Paw Piñata. Surprise your feline friend with any of the below and you’re sure to get two very enthusiastic paws up!
1. Treasure Hunt
Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? We know we do! And the good news is that many pet parents report that this game goes down a treat with their feline friends. Setting up a treasure hunt is an excellent way of making mealtimes more exciting, plus it taps into your cat’s predatory instincts as they seek to find their food.
To play this game, spread their usual portion of the best cat food across several different bowls. You then want to take each bowl and hide it in a separate location. To begin with, hide the bowls in plain sight so that your kitty has some time to understand the game and then, as they get used to it, you can make each food bowl more difficult to find.
2. Puzzle toys
Investing in the best cat puzzle feeder is another way that you can make mealtimes more stimulating and challenging for your feline friend. There are a range of great puzzle feeders on the market and you’ll find a variety of difficulty levels as well, so you can start your kitty off at entry level and move them up as they master each puzzle.
You can also make a non-food related puzzle toy by using a cardboard box (which cats seem to go crazy for) and placing a few of your fur baby’s favorite toys inside. Once you’ve done that, cut a few small holes in the top and watch as your little one tries to get their toys out. The best catnip toys are particularly good for this game!
You can even cut another hole at the back so that you can slip your hand in and move the toys back and forth to tap into their natural instinct to stalk, bat and pounce. This is particularly great if you’ve included a feather toy in the box as you can delight your kitty by slipping the feather in and out of the holes.
3. Paw Piñata
We’ve only just stumbled across Paw Piñata and already we’re obsessed with it. We mean, seriously, is this not the cutest name for a game you’ve ever heard? All you need to play Paw Piñata with your feline friend is a paper bag, some string and a few of the best cat treats.
Make several small cuts in the paper bag and then pop in some cat treats - make sure the holes aren’t so big that the treats will fall out. Once you’ve done that, tie the top of the bag and suspend it from a height that your kitty will be able to reach. You can then sit back and enjoy your kitty batting the bag about as they try to rip the holes to release the treats.
4. Hide and Seek
Not just for dogs, Hide and Seek is also a great game for cats and it’s actually easier to play with them than our canine companions as they won’t immediately chase after you, which makes it far easier to hide! Leave the room and go and find a place that you can tuck yourself away in. Once you’re in position, call your cat and wait for them to come and find you.
If you have a social breed, like a Bengal, this will likely be no problem, but if your cat isn’t quite sure what to do, you can shake a bag of cat treats while you call them as an incentive to get them to come. Once your feline friend finds you, reward them with a treat so that they know what the game is all about.
5. Cat apps
From painting to fishing and everything else in between, cat apps have become super popular in recent years and for good reason. While they may sound silly, cat apps offer a new way to challenge your feline friend and ensure their brain stays in tip-top shape.
You’ll find a range of great apps available on both iOS and Android that let your cat swipe the screen as they attempt to catch a fish or mouse, chase a laser beam, or paint their own masterpiece. All of the apps are really affordable too, so a small monthly investment can provide hours of amusement.
6. Obstacle course
Last but certainly not least, why not really challenge your cat by setting up a super fun obstacle course that will put all their mental and physical capabilities to the test? The great thing about this game is you don’t have to go out and buy a single thing, you can simply use objects you already have around your house.
The key to making this game successful is to have a wand with a feather or other lure attached to it that your kitty will enjoy chasing. You can then use it to guide them over certain obstacles, like the couch, the top of the bookshelf, and any other piece of furniture you can think of.
Once they’ve got used to doing that, add in some hoops or tunnels that your cat has to step, jump or work their way through. If you have a cat tree or one of the best cat scratching posts, you can also incorporate these into the course. Basically, the sky’s the limit where this game is concerned!
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.