Playtime is a very important part of your cat’s daily life. No matter how old she is, she’ll benefit from having frequent opportunities to stalk, chase, pounce and capture. In an outdoor environment a cat would typically engage in about 12-20 hunting attempts. That doesn’t mean she’d successfully capture 20 mice, but she’d give it a good try. Even an indoor cat who has never ventured outside will greatly benefit from regular playtime.
Your Cat is an Individual
Every cat is an individual so you may have to experiment a bit when it comes to toy preference. The type of toys your cat enjoyed in her youth, for example, may not be as appealing if she’s now less mobile and has stiff joints. Some cats, no matter their age, have strong toy preferences and others don’t care at all as long as the toy is in motion and they have the chance to hunt.
Respect Your Cat’s Toy Preferences
There are so many cat toys to choose from in the categories of both solo play toys and interactive toys. When shopping, keep your cat’s size, athletic ability, personality and texture preferences in mind. A small, timid cat, for example, may not want to play with a large kitty kick-bag toy because it may resemble more of an opponent than prey. Your cat may have a texture preference and might prefer a soft toy she can sink her teeth into over a hard plastic toy.
Pay Attention to Your Cat’s Senses
Sound also plays a part in whether your cat will enjoy or ignore the toy. A toy that contains a bell inside may detract from its appeal if you have a multicat home where one or more cats wear bells on their collars. A toy that makes a rustling sound may be very appealing as it resembles the sound of a chipmunk or mouse darting through the leaves. Some cats like toys that have feathers and others might prefer fur-covered ones. When it comes to your cat’s toy preference, take into account it’s not just her sense of sight or hearing but also her sense of touch that can influence whether a particular toy is a success or not.
If you have a cat who isn’t responding to playtime, the first thing to do is to make sure you’re using the right technique when you engage in interactive play with her. Next, set up her solo toys so they pique her interest as she wanders through the house (i.e. don’t leave them heaped in a toy basket), and of course, make sure you’ve provided toys that are appealing. You may have to invest a little time and money into doing a toy preference test by trying out different types of toys on your cat. It’ll be worth the investment though because playtime is very valuable to your cat’s mental, physical and emotional health.
Don’t Give Up
I come across many people who simply give up and claim their cats just don’t play. Every cat plays! You just have to figure out what’s stopping your cat. It may be there’s too much tension in your multicat home… maybe she hasn’t played in so long that her skills need a little practice… or maybe you just haven’t gotten the type of toys she prefers. Just as some cats have definite preferences when it comes to the mouth feel of food or the texture of the litter they like, they can have toy preferences as well. Time to go shopping.
Need More Information?
For more specifics on the right techniques to use when engaging in interactive play and how to improve environmental enrichment through the use of solo toys, check out the book Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett.
We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.