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Why It’s Important To Play With Your Cat Every Day

May 12, 2013

Warmer temperatures have finally arrived in Chicago, which means we can finally enjoy spending more time outdoors. However, as nicer weather approaches, we may tend to spend more time outside of or away from home, which may mean that we spend less quality time with our cats.

Photo courtesy Jezlyn26.

That’s why it’s essential to make playtime a priority every day. I know this can be a big commitment, especially if a cat isn’t especially physically fit, but the daily activity can result in several benefits including the obvious one of being good for your cat’s health.

According to pet360.com, “Boredom, loneliness, and a lack of challenge can be extremely stressful to cats.” The author continues by saying that cats are naturally inquisitive, social, and playful, so playtime and general interaction can help keep their spirits up and give them a sense of purpose. Not only that, but daily activity prevents our cats from becoming lethargic; it can also make them less susceptible to illness.

But that’s not all. There are a number of other benefits that stem from playing with your cat, including:

First and foremost, our cats are hunters. I know they can be all “snuggly-wuggly” at times, but at their core, in their DNA, they were built to be predators.

Playtime allows them to act on their natural instincts; it gives them a release. Even a few minutes of playtime each day can help your cat tune in to that predatory nature and release some energy constructively.

Photo courtesy blackplastic.

When playing, try to make the toy appear as if it really is prey – something that scurries along and hides from your cat – even if it’s just a feather toy or a ping-pong ball. The idea is you want to get your cat’s imagination going, so he wants to go after it. Appeal to his natural instincts and curiosity, and get creative!

This constructive activity will also give your cat something to look forward to and help relieve boredom. Sure our cats sleep 20+ hours a day, but what about those other four? If they’re just sitting around like potatoes, odds are playtime will be a very welcome relief! It’s a great way to provide mental stimulation, too, especially if they can’t keep themselves preoccupied by looking out windows, etc.

Just as importantly, exercise is essential for our cats, even if they’re not overweight. This is because domesticated cats generally live sedentary lifestyles. Even if that doesn’t result in weight gain, a cat could still face other health issues down the line. If your cat is overweight, issues like arthritis, diabetes, and poor grooming habits could pop up in the future.

Plus, if your cat is special needs and has a condition like cerebellar hypoplasia, odds are that daily exercise may slowly build his muscles and help with coordination, eventually leading to improvement.

If that’s not enough of a reason to get your CH cat moving, consider this: Playtime is often a way for scared, insecure, or nervous cats to break out of their shell. I’ve seen this first hand at my shelter when playing with timid or even feral cats. When you play with them, their attention goes toward playing, instead of being scared. While it may take a great deal of playtime and other positive attention to get an insecure cat to blossom, it can be an important step toward building their confidence.

Photo courtesy elycefeliz.

But cats who don’t face those challenges can also benefit from special one-on-one playtime, too. Playing with your cat is an excellent way to spend quality time with your cat. It can help develop your relationship as you spend time together doing something your cat really enjoys.

Your cat may enjoy it so much that he may begin to initiate playtime. For example, every morning my CG and I have a dedicated one-on-one playtime. He enjoys it so much now that he’ll sit in my home office near his favorite toy in the morning to simply remind me that playtime is coming. He’ll also follow me around and be my shadow until he gets to play. It really is adorable, and I love that it’s something he looks forward to now!

That said, sometimes it can be seemingly impossible to find a cat toy that intrigues your cat. There’s a whole industry out there marketed toward us (yes, humans), trying to get us to buy things we think our cats would want to play with. Unfortunately, that often means that we end up buying a lot of stuff our cats couldn’t care a bit about!

Since it can be a (costly) venture to find out what your cat likes best, you can always start with some free toys and go from there. That may help you figure out what type of toy your cat likes best, so you can then make a more informed decision if you decide to make some purchases the next time you’re at your favorite pet supply store.

Another idea, too, is to trade toys among your friends. Consider swapping a few of the toys your cat isn’t interested in with some from a friend. Give them a good cleaning (some can simply be washed and thrown into the dryer), and see if they intrigue your cat. If not, no worries. You can always donate unwanted cat toys to your local shelter or to someone who fosters.

Does your cat love to play? Or is he or she more of a couch potato? How do you try to motivate them and get the moving? Please share in the comments!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2013 1:49 pm

    Does that mean I have to play with June Buggie? Can’t Jen do that?

  2. May 15, 2013 10:45 am

    Thanks for the reminder about how important playtime is! On a more general note, I’m really happy to have found your blog – my husband and I brought home a wobbly little stray cat about a week ago, and he’s been diagnosed with mild CH. It’s been incredibly useful to read through these posts and learn about all the difference ideas and experiences everyone has had! Initially we thought we’d work with a local animal group to find Wolsey a permanent home (we already have two non-CH cats), but between the CH and his charming personality, I think he’s here to stay 🙂

    • May 15, 2013 11:42 am

      Hi Emily, thanks for sharing! I’m glad he wobbled right into your heart and home! I hope you’ll continue to keep me posted about him. 🙂

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