Why cat play is so important: Six reasons to play with your kitty right now

Close-up of cute white kitten pawing at toy
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Cat play is vital when it comes to keeping your feline friend happy and healthy. Not only is it a brilliant way to provide their body with a good workout, daily play sessions are also wonderful for giving their mental health a boost. 

 Even though most cats will sleep for around 16 hours a day, when they are awake, they require lots of stimulation and enrichment — which is where the best cat toys and the best automated cat toys can come in handy. 

Even with some of the best interactive cat toys on the market, kitties will still benefit greatly from playing and interacting with their pet parents as well as having independent playtime. 

When you learn how to play with a cat using a variety of different toys, you give your kitty the opportunity to engage their natural hunting instincts. Not only does this give them a lot of exercise, but it can also help strengthen your bond and prevent destructive behaviors.

Most vets recommend that you play with your cat in 15-20 minute bursts, two to three times a day. Keen to get started with channeling your domestic tiger’s instincts into play? Read on to learn more about the benefits regular play sessions can offer you and your cat.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Play socializes cats

cat walking on curtain rail

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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.

4. 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. 

5. Indoor cats need play

Woman playing with cat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how to entertain indoor cats is 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.

6. 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.

If your cat wants to play all the time, this feature explains why.  You might also want to find out why your cat watches TV

Andy Hartup

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.