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

Cat playing with the best indoor cat toy
(Image credit: Getty)

Your cat's health isn't just based on its diet and vet visits - cat play is essential to keeping your kitten or cat happy and healthy. 

If you can, play with your cat every single day - most vets and studies recommended two sessions of around 15-20 minutes of play as a minimum guideline for cats. The more play the better, obviously, but if you're quite busy just try and reach these minimums. If you're looking for new cat toys or activities, check out, our best cat toys guide for some help. 

Different cats prefer different types and styles of play that will likely change as they age. Kittens have more energy, and you may see that their behavior is better if you play with them more than your older cats. It’s likely that your own feline will have a distinct personality, which will determine what kind of cat play you should choose. Maybe one cat loves to chase crinkly toys while another prefers to attack a teaser, so use trial and error to figure out what works for your pet.

Why is cat play so important? Inactivity is one of the main causes of feline obesity, which can then lead to other physical health problems, you can read more about these in our vet's guide to healthy weight loss for cats . Overfeeding is the other - and cats tend to eat more when they are bored and understimulated, so you can actually solve both problems with regular play. There are other advantages too, which we’ll detail below. 

Cat play them healthy

An inactive cat can easily gain weight and therefore deal with the health issues that come with added pounds. Play stimulates a cat's senses and helps improve their mood, while helping them burn some calories through movement. Happier cats tend to be healthier cats who are less stressed or insecure about daily routines. Play session may also prevent your cat from over-eating, which also helps keep their weight down!

Play creates a better bond

Regular play time with your cat usually means your pet will be more attached to you, and will therefore have a more fulfilling relationship with you. If you don’t interact with your feline on a regular basis, they will lose interest in you, or simply view you as a provider of food. This could mean your cat avoids sitting on your lap or letting you pet it, or it could develop other insecurity issues. Most owners will leave their cats at home while they go to work, or leave the home, so packing in play time not only shows your cat that you care for them, it also becomes part of your daily routine and can help you to de-stress when you have finished work or come home from school.

Play socializes cats

cat play

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cat play not only exercises cats, it can also help to make them better behaved. A bored cat will explore on their own; it’ll climb curtains, scratch sofas, and knock items off shelves. If you don’t play with your cat they will make their own fun, and will exercise curiosity, so if you’re concerned about your furniture and the general appearance of your home, socializing a cat through play is essential. While cats can’t be trained, you can use toys like laser pointers and teaser toys to stop your cat (or kitten) from doing things like biting and scratching humans, and to play in more acceptable ways. This is especially useful if you have children, who can be badly scratched by bored or stressed cats.

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

cat play

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you have an indoor cat - like many people who live in cities - you'll need to find ways to keep your cat occupied. Outdoor cats can roam outside and discover new areas or chase around other animals, but your indoor cat will need more stimulation. See our guide above for the best cat toys - we recommended laser pointers, flipping fish, and other toys that encourage stalking and pouncing. These activities are what your cat will usually do outside, and these instincts don’t lessen if they stay indoors, so you need to find ways to let them behave naturally. Boredom and stress can be rife with indoor cats, as they live within the same space all their lives, so play is essential for them.

Play comforts cats

Life changes - it’s inevitable. Cats are creatures of habit, and when change happens (even if it’s temporary, like when you rearrange the furniture in a room for a couple of days), they get stressed out. Play can create a routine to help them cope with change, or it can distract them and make them feel more comfortable, helping them to overcome temporary stress that arises from change. If your cat is shy or hiding for some reason, a familiar toy can bring them out again, or allow you to get close enough to pick them up or comfort them.

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 10 best interactive cat toys.

*https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/kittens-cats/exercise-for-your-cat

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.