My cats are masters of play, and that’s a good thing — we can all benefit from more play in our lives, right? My felines have a number of tricky ways to get me to remember to lighten up and play. Some of these tactics are pretty adorable. Here’s what they do:
We often find a small cat toy placed deliberately in a shoe or slipper. Loving cats as I do, I always find this amazing. I’m motivated to play! It’s usually a soft toy. Some of the cats’ most favorites toys in their collection are the small stuff catnip pillows, which we have nicknamed “babas.” (Cat toy nicknames make about as much sense as cat nicknames in our household.) These fit nicely into a shoe, and are easily carried around in a cat’s mouth. Thankfully, they don’t usually pick up small hard toys (like a jingle ball, for example) and put them in our shoes.
We have seen the following happen in our household. A cat will love a favorite toy ÔÇô- when all is right with the world. But when one of us is gone traveling, for example, the cat will entirely lose interest in the toy. We end up feeling so bad that we try even harder to get the cat to play.
Rama loves the circular ball in a track toy and will smack it with abandon. When I was gone once for several days, my husband witnessed Rama take a couple of half-hearted swipes at the toy. This would tug at any cat lover’s heart. My husband, good guy that he is, spent time trying to get Rama to get happy and get interested in the toy.
Some people’s cats leave a gift like a dead mouse on a doorstep or in a doorway. My cats do the same thing with toys. This may be because they’ve already killed any mouse that dared get into the house (they are indoor-only).
I’ve found toys placed very deliberately in the most obvious places ÔÇô- right in the middle of a doorway, on the toilet seat, centered on a step. It’s obvious that the cats really want us to find these toys! Call me easily amused, but I find it all adorable.
When more obvious tactics fail to work, the cats revert to passive aggressive techniques. Play and attention are of the utmost importance, right? Drop what you’re doing and play with me! My cats have been known to jump on the piano keys as I have been practicing. They’ve been known to turn up the wailing if I’m on the phone. They’ll or lie on a pile of papers I need, right when I need them. How do they know I need those papers right at that time? It’s one of the great mysteries of the universe. No doubt about it -ÔÇô cats are tapped into this.
I’ll be the first to admit I need a bigger basket, but we are temporarily using an old Easter basket to store our collection of cat toys. Nonetheless, the cats deal with this limitation. We have seen our smart cats take toys out of the basket, and my husband swears he has seen Chester put a toy back in the basket. I thought only dogs did this! Now I feel apologetic for not giving cats enough credit.
After our move, some stuff was still in the previous place. Unfortunately, one of the things that got left behind was the Feline Fisher. (How could I do that?) Not wanting to buy another Feline Fisher (believe me, money has plenty of other places to go at this time), my husband made a homemade Feline Fisher-type toy. It works! It’s not as light and jumpy as the original toy, but the cats will put up with it. I can tell, though, that they miss the original toy and that this substitute is only a substitute.
Usually we are good about putting this toy away because we’re aware that a cat could hurt himself with this stringed toy left out. But once in a while we forget. I came into the living room once to find inventive Norton playing with the toy. We’d left it draped over a chair and he was swatting it. Shame on me! I grabbed the toy, played with Norton, and put it away.
The point is, let’s play!
Cats have it right. More play is better for us all. It’s great for the health of your cat, and it helps them channel that hunting energy in constructive ways.
So, are your cats passive aggressive or more direct about wanting to play? How do they let you know, in no uncertain terms, that they want you to play with them?
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.