You wake up late once again and hurry to get ready for work. As you dress, your cat brings you a crumpled paper ball and drops it at your feet as if to say, Its time for my favorite game. Already late, you pat her on the head and go out the door.
Later that night, the routine is repeated, but this time youre tired and want to get to bed early. For many of us, our lifestyles and schedules are sometimes busier than we can handle – but is it fair to make Kitty wait?
We all enjoy watching a cat play, and they enjoy doing it. In addition to just having a rollicking good time, cats also play as a way to learn and maintain important life skills. You may see your cat chase a moving object, then stop and pounce on it. In a multicat household, cats may chase each other or roll on the floor and play-kick a feline companion.
Play with cats, as with children, allows them to practice and learn social rules, social roles and perfect physical motor skills, says Larry Lachman, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist, animal behavior consultant, and author of Cats on the Counter: Therapy and Training for Your Cat. With our kids, its playing tag, throwing a ball or drawing, and with cats, climbing, balancing and play stalking as a prelude for serious hunting.
Play helps a cat keep physically and emotionally fit. If cats become bored, behavioral problems can develop as a result of the lack of mental stimulation.
Compulsive behaviors such as self-mutilation and licking, aggression for attention or even litter box problems may result when a cat has too little to do in an indoor environment.
Cats enjoy playing throughout their lives, and even a physical disability may not deter some of them. Kittens play naturally, but an adult cat may need extra stimulation to keep his attention focused on playing – so scheduling play times is important. Cats should play at least twice a day for 20 to 30 minutes, says Dr. Lachman.
Time Tips That Work
Busy lifestyles are the norm these days, and finding time to do all that we need to do – let alone play with our cats – can be difficult. The simplest solution is to reset the alarm. Get up 15 minutes earlier, says Dr. Lachman, or go to sleep 15 minutes later. Another option is to hire someone to help. Have a pet sitter come in during the day for that well-needed afternoon aerobic session, says Dr. Lachman.
If you opt for setting a play schedule yourself, select a time that is convenient such as in the morning before work or in the evening before you feed your cat.
Select a favorite feline toy that involves a physical activity like running or jumping (and one that is cat-safe, of course) to make the most of the valuable time. The wand-like toys, the catnip-filled fake mice and pouches, and either cat trees or scratching posts with hidden treats on them seem to excite our pet cats, says Dr. Lachman. Ping pong balls, and boxes or large open containers for them to crawl through are also interest sustaining.
Often, just finding the time to play with our cats involves focusing on it. As you put on your makeup in the morning, roll a ping pong ball in the bathtub for your cat to chase or dangle a feather toy from the shower rod. If you have a hook in the bathroom or bedroom or a door device on which to hang clothes, dangle a toy from a piece of elastic for your cat to chase. If not, tie the toy to a doorknob. (Just make sure that elastic and other string-like objects are safely secured. If pulled free and ingested, linear foreign bodies present a very serious health risk.)
You can also keep a wand toy on the shelf of your closet, and, as you dress for work, get the toy out and play with your cat. Keep some rubber balls in your bowl of keys and pocket change so you can roll them for your cat to chase as you get ready to leave the house. If your time is limited, try attaching a laser pen light to your key ring. Before you leave the house, spend time letting your cat chase the light. Cats love to chase a laser light as you move it along the floor or up the wall. (Just be sure not to shine the laser into your cats eyes to prevent damage.)
Entertain When Youre Not Home
Enrich Kittys life by providing some self-activated toys so that she can play while you are away from the house. Mini-tracks with balls, catnip toys, crumpled paper balls, paper bags and boxes to crawl into can help Kitty have a good time during the day. To further make her life more interesting, hide toys and treats around the house so she must explore to find them. And think about providing her with a multi-level climbing tree on which to sharpen her claws so that she can make short work of that imaginary prey youve left for her to find.