6 styles of play for your cat
by Ontario SPCA and Humane Society | Cat Care | November 29, 2021
Did you know that while a cat’s natural instinct is to hunt and play, not all cats play the same way? To help encourage play behaviour it can be helpful to find out what type of play your cat prefers. From chasing and stalking to birding play (where the cat’s focus is primarily in the air) and pouncing, here’s how to get the most out of playtime with your cat.
How to start
Start by offering your cat various toys and moving them around in different ways. This helps to figure out their preferred play items and movement style. Once you have found their toy preference for that play session you can start to figure out your cat’s play style of choice is.
Chasing and stalking
Does your cat love to hunt on the ground? Then chasing and stalking is the perfect play style for them as it stimulates natural hunting behaviours. Dragging a toy on a string at different paces works well, as do toys that resemble prey that may be scurrying on the ground, like a toy mouse. Some cats are even partial to chasing a ball down a hallway at a high speed, which is also beneficial for daily exercise.
For cats that prefer a play style that requires them to leap in the air to catch their toy or “prey”, or are very focused on watching birds, a cat wand with a feathered toy on the end is a great option. Birds on television, a bird feeder outside a closed window, or simply bird noises in the background can also provide extra enrichment for your furry friend. Keep an eye out for frustration, however, as not being able to “catch” those birds may increase arousal levels.
Cats that use their paws to hit and play with their “prey” benefit from swatting play. To play hands-on with your cat, use a wand. Self-entertaining toys work well too, such as interactive toys where cats can hit a ball through a container on a track or spring cat toys, like a toy on top of a tall spring with a base to encourage continuous swatting and movement.
Surprise play and hide and seek
Does your cat love to hide and jump out at you as you walk by? Then it’s time to dig up some cardboard boxes and paper bags! Cats who enjoy this type of play like hiding in items like these. You can also encourage play by tossing a toy outside the box or paper bag entrance for your cat to jump out of hiding and catch.
Kick play or bunny kick
Cats that are fans of wrestling play – holding a toy into their stomach and kicking – benefit from kicker toys. Kicker toys are great for wrestling behaviour because they’re big enough for your cat to grab onto and kick with their back legs. You can also keep an eye out for kicker toys that are filled with catnip to encourage even more play time.
While pouncing is part of most play styles, some cats enjoy it while playing more than others. Putting a blanket on top of a toy on a string and pulling the toy underneath it encourages pouncing. Lasers can also be fun for pouncing, but it’s a good idea to place toys where the laser lands so your cat feels like they’re catching something and doesn’t lose interested or get frustrated.
One key thing to remember with all play styles is to make playtime positive. If you notice overstimulation or hissing, stop the play session so your cat can take a moment to deescalate and then try to resume a less stimulating type of play, such as self-play options, once they have settled.
Thanks for reading up on our cat play styles! For more enrichment and training tips, check out our Shelter Health Pro website.
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As an animal lover all the work you do to help ensure that every dog and cat can find their forever home that is filled with love is greatly appreciated.