Cat Behavior

Playing with your Cat: What you Need to Know

Owning a cat is more than just feeding it, ensuring it has the right litter box and has plenty of water to drink. Responsible cat owners know that a big part of the bonding experience with the cat is playing with it.

This helps to reinforce that human cat bond, which all cat owners should want for their cat. When a cat is bonded with their human, they are going to be happier overall. And remember, a happy cat is one that you always want to have in your home.

Cats that are depressed can have behavioral issues and even health issues that requires frequent trips to the vet’s office.

Why Make Time for Play?

Many cat owners think that simply sitting on the couch with their loved cat, rubbing on him or her, and talking nicely to it, is all that is needed to be a good car parent. However, play time is essential. Play time can help in a variety of ways, including:

  • Getting a cat physical activity, important for those cats who may lay around the house all day.
  • Help encourage their mental health as cats need this mental outlet to use their brain and keep their skills sharp.
  • This can help stop behavioral issues that may be present.
  • This can also help the cat to get onto your schedule. Meaning that they sleep when you sleep instead of wandering the house getting into trouble while you sleep.
  • It bonds the cat and the owner together.

With this being said, play time is an essential part of any healthy cat and owner relationship.

Play Time Should be Interactive

When you are playing with a cat, this should be interactive. What does this mean? It is not enough to simply toss a stuffed mouse at a cat and hope that they entertain themselves with this.

In most cases, the cat is going to lose interest rather quickly because it is not interactive. Interactive play refers to you, the owner, playing with the cat via a toy or whatnot.

Look at it like this, if you were to be playing ball out in the front yard, it would be much more fun to play with someone who is tossing the ball back. It is not as much as fun if you are simply standing there with the ball having to entertain yourself.

Instead, your play time should be some time for you to have fun as well. A great idea is to get a fishing rod type of toy for your cat. With this type of toy, whatever is one the end, whether it is a piece of string or a stuffed mouse, when you move this fishing rod you are breathing life into the toy.

This is going to keep your cat more entertained as it becomes a good source of simulation of hunting, which if your cat is indoors, he or she may not get much of anymore.

This is going to keep the skills of your cat sharp and their minds always thinking, something that all cats need to be healthy throughout the rest of their lives.

Playing with your Cat

A Few Tips for Interactive Play

While all cat owners should be having interactive paly with their cats, they should be aware of a few tips that can make this easier.

While it is okay to jump into playing with your cat, you may find that there are a few things that your cat dislikes or that they do not play as well as you had hoped.

In many cases, when a cat is not getting as involved as you had hoped, this is due to some error that has been made, you can easily rectify with these tips!

1- You must have the right setting.

What does this mean? In the interactive play scenario, you are the cats prey, so you don’t want to make catching the toy super easy. You need to have the right setting.

For example, the open space of the kitchen is not really the right setting. However, the couches and chairs that your cat can jump over in the living room is a great setting that is going to deliver hours of enjoyment for your cat.

2- Play your role!

Be sure that you are taking serious the role that you must play. Do not simply move the fishing rod toy back and forth in hopes of sparking the interest of the cat. You need to take more initiative and be more active in your role.

For example, if the cat looks right at the toy freeze as the prey would do in real life. It is going the extra mile when it comes to playing these roles that will really get your cat happy about this interactive play time!

3- Avoid frustrating the cat.

This is one mistake that many people make. You never want to frustrate the cat. For example, many people may move the toy too fast for the cat to catch, no matter what they do.

Others may act as though they are a bird and then fly this in the air, giving the cat no opportunity to catch this. These are all activities that are going to frustrate the cat and make him or her simply not want to play with you.

4- Avoid exhaustion.

It is always great to get out that extra energy that your cat may have. However, you never want to play with the cat to the point of exhaustion. At no point in which you are playing with your cat should he or she be panting or heaving. If this happens, then it is time to stop playing!

5- Adhere to the exercise rules of warm up, play and then cool down!

Remember, that you should be playing with your cat just like you would exercise! Warm up, then play, then cool down in order to be safe.

This is why you should begin with slow movements when moving the toy for your cat. Increase this until you are full out playing with the cat, then start slowing down once you are getting to the end of your play session.

This is going to be a healthier option for your cat’s body rather than simply stopping.

6- Have a schedule for playing!

Every cat wants to feel loved, and having a schedule for when you play is one of the best ways to show your love and to keep that strong bond! Remember that cats are creatures of habit.

Thus, when you start playing they are going to associate that time of day for playing, and they will always be awake and alert for whenever this happens.

For those who are just starting out with this, a great tip is to have play time during the evening. This way your cat can exert some energy right before it is time to go to bed, and most animal behavioral doctors will tell you that this is the best time to avoid the night crazies that many cats get!

7- Never play with more than one cat at a time!

You are going to find that if you were to play with more than one cat at a time that one cat is going to get jealous and no longer play, no matter what you do!

This is why it is best to have interactive play with each cat separately. This may mean having more than one toy or designating different times for the cats to play. Through doing this, you are going to have happier and healthier cats!

8- Feed your cats after playing.

Cats are not only going to be hungry after they play, but this also keeps with their natural instincts. Look at play time as a time for the cats to hone their hunting skills.

Thus, after every hunt a meal would be had. If your cat has a different time to eat, give a spoon or so of food or maybe even a treat after playtime.

This is going to increase the satisfaction that your cat has had and once they eat, they are more likely to curl up and sleep the rest of the night.

Playing with your Cat

9- Be sure to keep your finger’s, hands and toes out of the way!

When cats are playing, they may inadvertently nip a finger or claw a toe. That is why it is best to keep your body parts out of their way. While they may not need to, they could injure you, and anyone who has been injured by a cat before will tell you that it can hurt!

A golden rule to remember is that you are going to want to play with your cat throughout the life. Remember, as a small kitten they are going to be more playful. And even when they are an older adult cat, they still need this time to play.

How long you play is up to you. However, most people start with a few minutes every day and work their way up to 10 to 15 minute sessions throughout the day.

About the author

Heather Sallee

Heather Sallee

Heather Sallee is an avid writer and has been freelancing for over 8 years. She loves to write on topics related to her life including children, family life and animals.


  • I use a laser light toy to play with my cat but reading your article, I think your number three point which talks about frustrating the cat happens whenever I engage in the act of using the laser light toy to play with the cat. Although she goes crazy when chasing the light around, I think in the long run I end up frustrating her. Thank you for the enlightenment

  • Most cats that I have been around do not like to be held, which means the cute playful moments in your arms is out of the question. But these other tips are great.

  • As a new cat owner, I have found this article to be super helpful. I have loved cats my whole life but my mother and brother were allergic so I could never own one. I have finally moved out and I adopted two this past Friday! I adopted a kitten and an older cat from the shelter. He is 3 years old and the kitten is about 3 and a half months. I am going to read around on here and see what else I can learn. I am picking them up on Thursday!

  • This is a very helpful post I will be sharing with my sister who recently bought two new cats for her daughters. They are always trying to get the cats to play constantly. I really want to let them know that cats need breaks and specific schedules to play and to only play with one at a time. Thanks.

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