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Playtime With Your Cat: Making the Right Moves

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When using a toy to play with your cat, there are certain movements that will trigger his prey-drive and entice him into the game and there are other movements that won’t be as effective.

Go in the Right Direction

Playtime for a cat is similar to hunting. Your cat will seek, stalk, pounce and capture. To trigger his prey-drive, the toy’s movements should go across or away from the cat’s visual field. This is how prey would naturally move and when you’re engaging your cat in playtime, your job is to simulate the movement of prey.

If you move the toy toward the cat you will cause confusion because no prey in its right mind would willingly race up to a predator. When movements go toward the cat it can change the tone of the game from predator and prey to two opponents. That certainly won’t be fun for kitty. He’ll switch from play-mode to defense-mode and that’s not the effect anyone wants.

quote from dr. haug



Vary Speed of the Cat’s Toy

If you want this to be a fun and rewarding game for the cat, alternate fast and slow movements. In a natural hunting setting, the cat would use the times that the prey has momentarily stopped moving to advance his position silently. If the prey is in constant motion it becomes more dumb luck and less predatory skill for the cat to accurately stalk, pounce and capture. The times that the prey isn’t moving are the times when kitty is planning his next move.

Highs and Lows

If you’re using a bird-type interactive toy don’t keep the toy flying through the air all the time. Alternate some ground movement. It’s the time that a bird is on the ground feeding that the cat would have a better chance for a capture.

Remember the Importance of Success for Your Cat

If you never win at games it can become very frustrating. Let your cat enjoy many successful “captures” so he can build confidence and find enjoyment and satisfaction. The more fun he has, the more he’ll associate these positive experiences with you. That’s a great way to strengthen the bond between you both.

Want More Information?

For more specific tips on interactive play and play therapy, refer to any of Pam’s books including Think Like a cat and CatWise. You can find the books by best-selling author, Pam Johnson-Bennett, in bookstores everywhere, through your favorite online book retail site and also right here on our website.


You can find more information on cat behavior and training in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s best-selling books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s behavior or health, please contact your veterinarian. This article is not intended as a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care. This article is for information purposes only and not offering medical advice or providing a medical diagnosis.

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