Playtime with your cat may seem like a no-brainer but there are actually a few mistakes you can make that can be counter-productive to your cat’s enjoyment of the game. Some mistakes in your playtime technique can even contribute to behavior problems. That may be surprising to learn but when you think about the technique cats use to hunt (stealth and stalking) and the frantic counter-intuitive way we ask them to play (constant high-speed motion and frustration), it’s very likely that our methods create more negative reactions than positive. Here are three common mistakes that I see people make:
Don’t Use Your Hands as Toys
Wiggling fingers are definitely convenient when your cat is nearby and in play-mode but what actually ends up happening is that you send the unintentional message that biting flesh is acceptable behavior. If the cat learns that biting during play is allowed, she’ll learn that biting is an acceptable and effective form of communication whenever she wants to get a point across. That point could be that she wants attention or maybe wants to be left alone.
The association your cat has with your hands should only be that they are used for gentle petting and holding. If they are also viewed as toys, it can lead to a painful injury should kitty decide to playfully bite another family member other than yourself. That family member could be a child or an elderly relative. Don’t send mixed messages about biting – even when it’s done in play.
This Isn’t a Wrestling Match
Don’t use your hands to pin the cat down or wrestle with her. In addition to the danger of you ending up injured, it changes the tone from play to battle where the cat views you as an opponent. Cats don’t wrestle their prey to the ground and they don’t want to be wrestled to the ground by an adult human. It’s not a fair game at that point. Additionally, if you wrestle your cat and have her on her back, she will then be put in the defensive aggressive posture. You may find yourself not only getting bitten but scratched as well.