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5 reasons why your cat wants to play all the time

Ginger cat playing
(Image credit: Getty Images)

So, your cat wants to play all the time and you’re tearing your hair out because you simply don’t have hours each day that you can spend entertaining your furry friend. Rest assured, you’re not alone! A lot of pet parents report investing in the best cat toys only to find that instead of providing brief moments of amusement, their kitty wants to play with their toys (and their human) 24/7. 

While we often think of cats as being independent and somewhat aloof, that’s not the case for every cat. It’s true that some of our feline friends will have more standoffish natures and prefer more alone time, but a lot of cats are highly social little creatures who thrive on company and affection. Signaling that they want to play is one of the primary ways they get these needs met.

Learning how to play with a cat is one of the most important skills you’ll develop as a pet parent. Not only does it stimulate your cat’s natural instincts and boost their mental and physical health, but it’s also a great way to strengthen and deepen the bond that the two of you share. 

That being said, while there are a number of reasons why cat play is so important, the last thing you want is a kitty who is unable to sit still. Below, we walk you through some of the most common reasons why your cat wants to play all the time and share some tips on how to keep your feline friend occupied when you don’t have time to join in on all the fun. 

Common reasons your cat wants to play all the time

While some pet parents ask the question ‘why do cats sleep so much?’ others find themselves asking why their cat wants to play all the time! Most cats will sleep for around 15 hours a day as a way of recharging their batteries, but some cats, for a variety of reasons, may be more active.

For those felines that fall into the latter category, their waking hours are often spent wanting to engage in play. While bursts of play are completely normal, if your kitty is wanting to zoom around excessively, it’s worth being aware of some of the common reasons that may be driving this behavior. 

1. They’re bored

Is your cat bored? If you work away from home during the day then it’s highly likely that your cat gets bored during the day. This will often cause a cat to sleep more as a way of passing the time, which means they’ll be full of energy by the time you get home. 

But boredom isn’t just confined to those times when you’re out of the house. If you work from home and don’t have a lot of free moments during the day to play with your cat, they’re also likely to become bored. It’s important to pay attention to boredom as it can often result in a range of unwanted behaviors. 

2. They’re lonely

Unless they have another feline friend at home to keep them company, it’s likely that your cat experiences bouts of loneliness when they’re alone in much the same way that we humans do. 

Having another kitty around can do wonders for your cat’s mental and physical health, so if you’re away a lot and you have the resources to cope with two fur babies, keeping them in pairs can be very comforting.

3. They want attention

Do you find that your cat is constantly bringing you their toys, pawing at your leg or running around hoping that you’ll chase them? Sometimes our feline friends can act in ways that remind us more of our canine companions, but this behavior is their way of telling you that they’re not getting enough attention and want you to play with them. 

You’ll notice this a lot less in outdoor cats, who tend to be quite happy amusing themselves by heading off on all-day adventures. But if you have an indoor cat, they’ll be quick to tell you if they feel you’re not giving them the level of love and attention that they’re looking for. 

4. It’s their breed

The most playful cat breeds have fun hardwired into their DNA, so if you have an Abyssinian, Bengal or Maine Coon, just to name a few, expect them to want to play a lot. While the laziest of our feline friends, like the Persian, will be happy to sleep the day away, high energy breeds need a lot of physical and mental stimulation in order to thrive.

5. They have a medical condition

A medical condition probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you’re trying to figure out why your cat wants to play all the time, but believe it or not, certain health issues can cause your cat to become more energetic. 

The most common of these is hyperthyroidism, a condition where your cat’s thyroid produces more hormones than necessary which results in them becoming hyperactive. If your cat’s constant need to play is also accompanied by excessive thirst and urination, make sure you speak to your vet. 

How often should you play with your cat

Cat playing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Play is incredibly important for cats. “Constructive playtime for a cat is much-needed exercise,” explains Dr. Carol Osborne (opens in new tab), DVM of Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic in Ohio. “It often improves cats’ mental health, lessening anxiety and destructive behavior.”

Exercise in the form of play is also wonderful for helping to reduce boredom, increase bonding between cats and their humans and it can also assist with maintaining a healthy weight, something that’s super important in indoor cats who tend to be at greater risk of obesity. It’s clear that there are a number of benefits to setting aside time to play, but how much time exactly?

Well, as with anything, moderation is key. We recommend two 20 minute sessions or four 10 minute sessions interspersed throughout the day. If your cat displays signs of tiredness or overexertion, such as panting, it’s important that you stop and allow them to rest. 

“Generally if your cat walks away, is getting agitated, angry, stressed, too intense or becoming too stimulated, you should stop playing,” says animal behaviorist Russell Hartstein (opens in new tab). “Several shorter play sessions tend to suit many cats better than one longer one.”

Ways to keep your cat occupied

There are going to be times when you’re available to play with your cat and other times when you’re not. To help you with both of these scenarios, we’ve put together these handy tips for ways that you can keep your cat occupied. 

1. Invest in some interactive cat toys

The best interactive cat toys are a real lifesaver for those days when you’re needing your kitty to be able to play independently. Interactive cat toys include things like puzzles, treat dispensers, flapping fish, track-style toys with balls attached or any other plaything that your cat can use without you needing to help them. All of these do a wonderful job of offering your feline friend the physical and mental stimulation they need to stay happy and healthy.

2. Try laser toys, too

If you’re out of the house a lot during the day, the best laser toys for cats are well worth considering. These do a brilliant job of tapping into your feline friend's natural predatory instincts to stalk, chase, and pounce, and they engage both the mind and the body. While some pet parents worry about laser toys, you don’t need to. Most switch themselves on and off automatically and offer 15-20 minutes of play mixed in 2-3 hours of rest, so there’s no danger of your cat becoming overstimulated.

3. Use a cat app

If you’re looking for something that you and your kitty can enjoy together, why not consider one of the many cat apps that are now available? While they may sound like a bit of a silly gimmick, they’re actually fantastic for providing your feline friend with some mental enrichment. From fishing to painting, there’s plenty on offer to keep your kitty entertained. 

4. Pop on a video

Videos for cats are becoming more and more popular and they’re a really wonderful solution if you’re looking for ways to minimize any boredom or loneliness your cat may be experiencing when you’re out of the house. A lot of cats find watching mice, cats and birds on TV to be incredibly stimulating and engrossing, so if you’re looking for something to occupy your pet, these are well worth a try.

5. Leave out some cat-specific furniture

We highly recommend purchasing one of the best cat scratching posts if you haven’t already got one. These are great for giving your kitty a good stretch and keeping their nails in tip-top condition, plus many come with toys attached, so they can play at the same time. 

If you’d like to cut down on the amount of cat-related items you have around your home, a cat tree is well worth investing in. These tend to come with built-in scratching posts, toys, perches and even the best cat bed, so they’re a great way of killing four or five birds with one stone. 

6. Set up a pet camera

The best pet cameras are a real lifesaver when it comes to enabling you to check in on your kitty while you’re away from home. Because most of them come with a two-way audio feature, you’ll even be able to converse with your cat and let them hear your voice. It’s worth shopping around before you buy and giving some thought to what kind of camera you’d like. You’ll find that some come with a treat dispenser while others feature a laser, both of which can be super fun for your feline pal. 

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.