Cat play is vital when it comes to keeping your kitty happy and healthy - not only physically but mentally too. It's also a great way to relieve boredom, tap into those natural predatory instincts and help you to bond even more deeply with your feline friend.
Most vets recommend you play with your cat for two to three short sessions each day of around 15-20 minutes in length using a variety of the best cat toys. Not only can these regular play sessions help to reduce weight gain (something that's particularly important for indoor cats) and ward of future health problems, but they can also help keep your little one's mind sharp.
When it comes to selecting toys for your feline friend to play with, we recommend you opt for several different kinds as this will ensure your kitty stays interested and engaged. The best laser toys for cats are a fantastic way to tap into your fur baby's natural predatory instincts to stalk, chase, and pounce, while puzzle toys are ideal for hiding treats in and keeping your kitty mentally challenged.
And don't worry, all these cat toys needn't be expensive. While you can absolutely head to the shops and purchase a few special items off the shelf, feel free to get creative by making your very own DIY cat toys out of common household items. Your cat won't know the difference and these cheap and cheerful toys are just as fun and entertaining.
Let's take a deeper dive into why cat play is so important, including the benefits it can offer both you and your feline friend.
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Cat play boosts physical health
Just like we humans need to keep moving to stay fit and healthy, the same is true for our feline friends who can easily pack on the pounds and develop health issues if they're not getting enough activity into their day.
This is particularly a problem for indoor cats, who tend to live more sedentary lifestyles and don't clock up anywhere near as many steps as their outdoor siblings. Regular play sessions will keep your little one fighting fit and because they're engaged in an activity and not bored, playtime can also help prevent over-eating.
Play can strengthen your bond
If you're wanting to strengthen your bond with your kitty and spend some extra quality time together, play is an ideal way to do that. Toys give you a really great opportunity to interact with your feline friend on a deeper level and this daily ritual of spending 15-20 minutes having fun together can help you grow closer.
It's an especially great idea if you have a kitty who isn't all that cuddly and doesn't really like spending time on your lap as this will help you to engage with them in a way that they feel comfortable with.
Play socializes cats
Not only is cat play a great way of providing your kitty with the mental and physical stimulation they need to thrive, it can also help to make them better behaved. If you have a feline friend who is constantly trying to climb up the curtains, uses your couch as a scratching post, or deliberately tries to knock your belongings off of shelves and cabinets, scheduling in regular play sessions can be a great way of putting a stop to this.
Often, these unwelcome behaviors aren't a result of your kitty deliberately trying to upset you but are more their way of communicating to you that they're bored. Cats will get very creative when their needs aren't being met and are more than happy to make up their own fun, so by engaging them in regular play sessions you're helping them to learn what's appropriate and what's not.
Cat play is fun
It’s easy to focus on the sensible benefits of cat play, but don’t forget that cat play is fun for you too. Watching your cat backflip if they’re surprised by a teaser, or charge after a laser dot, is pretty funny, and can be beneficial to your mental health as much as the cat. While we’d never recommend exploiting your cat for silly videos, it can be fun to play and record your cat, to share with friends and family. There’s a reason cat videos are among the most watched footage on the internet.
Indoor cats need play
If you have an indoor cat - which many of us city-dwellers do - play becomes even more important than it is for outdoor cats, who are able to roam about and find plenty of things in nature that they can chase and interact with. For indoor cats, they're pretty reliant on us to come up with ways to engage their minds and bodies - thankfully, the huge array of cat toys available on the market these days tick both those boxes nicely.
We recommend you invest in a selection of toys, including flapping fish, laser pointers, catnip toys, puzzle toys and wands. The best automated cat toys are also well worth the money as these switch themselves on and off and are a great way of keeping your kitty amused when you don't have the time to play. Encouraging your feline friend to engage with a range of toys will help satisfy all their different instincts and help ward off boredom and relieve stress and anxiety.
Play comforts cats
Cats are incredibly sensitive creatures and any changes in their environment can cause them to feel stressed and anxious. While big changes, such as moving house, are obvious examples, even seemingly small changes, like moving their litter box or changing their feeding time, can cause them to feel out of sorts.
Not only is play extremely comforting for cats, but if you schedule it at a regular time each day, you'll help create a routine for them and a sense of certainty and predictability, two things that our feline friends greatly appreciate. If you notice your cat has suddenly become withdrawn or seems to be hiding themselves away, try bringing out a few toys and seeing if you can get them to interact.
What does your cat really need?
If you’re unsure whether or not your cat is in a healthy condition, you can check this handy guide from Purina, who not only make some of the best cat food, but also commission research and studies into cat health. Generally speaking, you will know if your cat is unhappy or overweight just by sight, and while it’s often obvious if they’re hungry or over-fed, you should also consider if a little play and human contact would benefit their physical condition and mental mood. For more ideas on how to keep your cat amused, have a look at our guide to the best interactive cat toys.
Andy is an online Editor-in-Chief, a photographer, and a cat owner of 25 years. He has owned many types of cat, rescuing some and adopting others from kittens. He currently lives with Pickle, a tortie, who loves to play with Christmas wrapping bows and eat flowers.
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