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Playing with Your Cats
Along with the right nutrition, playing with your cat is an important part of keeping your cat fit and lean. It also helps in maintaining good health and the special bond you both share. Luckily, cats love to play! Providing opportunities for solo play is particularly important for indoor cats, especially if they spend much of the day alone. Kittens and adult cats are both stimulated by the same sort of games, though kittens don't require a great deal of encouragement to get started. Cat play is almost entirely about simulating behavior associated with hunting.
The right toys. The first thing you're going to want to find is a proper toy to play with your cat. If you're trying to stimulate prey hunting behavior, you don't want to use your hands. Even if your cat is gentle, she might bite if she becomes too excited. You want your cat to associate your hands with petting and feeding, not hunting and killing.
Be wary of plain pieces of string, elastic bands or anything else your cat might swallow. Some thinner pieces of string, when stretched, can even become sharp.
Sound stimulation. Toys that have a bells or 'squeakers' are especially good to give your cat if she is likely to be left on her own because the noise acts as an extra stimulus.
The important point to remember with all these toys is that you need to alternate them to prevent boredom. Don't just throw all your cats toys on the floor and leave them. Cats are very smart and will tire of toys quickly. Instead, put out only one or two toys and change them regularly. This will be far more interesting for your cat.
Games. A fantastic type of toy for you and your cat to play with is the kind that has a ball, mouse or feather at the end of a string. Sometimes the string is also attached to a wand. These toys make it very easy for you to simulate moving prey for your cat.
- Try to imitate a small animal sneaking around your furniture. Or swing it through the air like a bird, letting it occasionally land and hop around on the ground
- Take your time, let your cat stalk or chase the 'prey' for a bit. After five or 10 minutes, let your cat pounce on the mouse or snatch the bird out of the air
- It's important that your cat feels like it has had a successful hunt
Your cat may chew on the toy or carry it off. If you are both still having fun the toy can come alive again, or you can introduce a new one. Anything with a string on it shouldn't be left out for your cat to chew through and swallow. And remember, it's important to keep the toys fresh and exciting.
How often should you play? Two play sessions a day would be fantastic for both you and your cat. You might find having a playtime just before bed (or even adding a third one) will help settle down a cat that usually gets into trouble at night. If your cat doesn't feel like playing the first time, don't get discouraged. Keep trying and you'll start to work out how and when your cat likes to play.
SOURCE: ©2009 Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc.