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The power in play for cats

Playing with your cats makes all the difference
Playing with your cats makes all the difference
Photo by Putu Sayoga/Getty Images

Ian Dunbar said that the one thing you can do with a dog to see a significant change in behavior is to hand feed a meal, kibble piece by kibble piece in a bonding, friendly way please. (Scolding and withholding will also change behavior but not in a good way so keep it nice.) It’s true. If you have not tried this go ahead and see what a difference a few meals make. And while handing feeding kitty works as a way to get closer to your feline, for cats, it really is all about the power of play for that one amazingly effective must try move.

The power of play for cats and for us with cats goes to how they live in our homes and how we interact with them. Cat people know that letting cats come to us is the fastest way to a cat’s heart but do we also know that the dog people have it over on us when it comes to playing with their best friends? Allowing the cat to just be in the background is all well and good for nap time but does little for the cat who surely craves a little enrichment or stimulation in lieu of getting to hunt for his supper. Add to this that play time is an incredibly bonding experience—all those feel good endorphins and hormones and relaxation and fun and all happening between the two of you. Play for cats with little else to do brings delight to an activity that incorporates some of the most important movements cats are born to make and along with all that meaningful and invigorating “exercise” comes a deepening of your relationship and understanding of each other, you just have to pay attention to how to play with your cat to get the appropriate response and your cat has to be waiting on and watching you. While all cats will benefit from play, former ferals and more timid cats will be even more relaxed than their more confident counterparts after interactive play. Cats are ever vigilant and allowing for playtime when the focus is on joy rather than watching for potential dangers, is the most blissfully enervating activity you can offer them, especially when you are furthering all the relationship building that joyful interactive play brings to the party, you become not just the person who is trusted to bring food, you also become the person who does these incredible play activities—talk about a best friend!

OK, you say all well and good but exactly how does the “play” with your cat thing actually work? You’ve supplied the fur mice and the scratch boards, what else? The trick is the toys have to have you attached to them, fishing wand toys with objects attached that you can drag across from or away from the cat’s line of vision. You may need to experiment with more than one type of toy—your cat’s response will let you know once you find the right technique and toy. To see exactly what this looks like and how to do it watch the video. Adding interactive cat play time is the most significant change you can make, go ahead and see for yourself!

Frania Shelley-Grielen is the author of Cats and Dogs, Living with and Looking at Companion Animals from Their point of view