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Cats are Serious About Play And Recreation
Play is an essential part of a cat’s every day life
Play is more than “just for fun” to cats – it’s an essential part of their every day life. Cats are considered to be fairly recent companions to humans, having been domesticated somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago. We only started keeping them indoors near the end of the 19th Century. The built-in prey drive that kept cats thriving all these millennia is still roaring! We now know cats live longer lives while kept indoors and it’s our duty as their guardians to keep them happy and healthy. Satisfying their prey drive – by providing toys and activities – is one of the essential tools needed in accomplishing this.
Beyond mimicking the “hunt,” play has many more important roles to play (see what we did there?):
- Keeps cats active indoors
- Aids in weight management
- Provides mental stimulation
- Is an outlet for energy
- Can relieve stress and anxiety
- Prevents boredom and oversleeping
- Strengthens the human-animal bond when done together
Keep play as safe as it is fun for your cat
Ribbon, string and other thread-like items can be life-threatening to cats if ingested. When they get stuck, they can cause a linear foreign body obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract and that calls for an emergency visit to the vet. It’s very difficult for cats to vomit when it starts going down because of the rear-facing barbs on their tongues. Sometimes, cats may pass the material in their stool, but it takes 12-24 hours to find out and that is too long to wait. There is also no way to know if all of it passed through.
Being a human cat toy HURTS!
If we allow our cats to believe our fingers and toes are toys, they will try to play with them when they are in the mood. Imagine walking down the hallway with a hot cup of tea in your hands and out of nowhere, kitty goes after your feet, causing you to spill the drink all over your favourite t-shirt. Or, if you have trouble getting to sleep and the moment you finally drift into a slumber, kitty chomps hard onto your thumb! OUCH!!!!!! It’s cute when they’re just kittens with kitten teeth but it’s very hard to redirect later in life – avoid at all costs if you like your limbs!
Stick with toys designed specifically for cats
Many wands and teasers have strings on them, but these are toys meant for interactive play and should be put away when play time together is finished. Cats love objects they can chase, pounce on and attack, so look for those that imitate prey by making tweet or squeak noises, jitter or move unpredictably, and look similar to the animal they are mimicking. Lasers are great so long as kitty gets a real toy to sink her claws into at the end of the chase game or she may get frustrated and attack your feet next time you walk past her!
Cat play or cat fight?
It’s important to know the difference but it sure can be hard to tell. Look at the stock images of these two ninja kitties. Their action shots came up when I searched “Cats Playing” and the same ones came up when I searched “Cats Fighting.” It’s wonderful and adorable when two cats get along and play with each other. The following signs are reassurance that all the chasing and wrestling is mutually friendly:
- Neither cat’s ears are pinned back
- There is no hissing or growling
- Tails and fur look normal as opposed to being puffed up
- Biting and scratching are minimal and gentle
- Each cat takes turns chasing and pouncing, rather than one bullying the other
If your cats are truly fighting, avoid the urge to physically separate them, as one or both could turn the aggression towards you. Instead, make a loud noise like banging two pot lids together to interrupt them.
When your cats are truly playing with each other, take lots of videos and share them with your cat-loving friends.