I suck at playing with my cats. No matter what I do, they seem to lose interest almost immediately. I’ve tried seemingly every toy under the sun: feather wands, catnip mice, any number of Kongs, balls both crinkly and jingly.
The only time they seem interested in play is when they initiate it — and they never use the toys I’ve purchased. Bubba Lee Kinsey adores twist ties. Phoenix, meanwhile, goes crazy for straws. And they both play fetch. If I throw the straw or twist tie, one of my cats will bring it back to me, and we will continue thusly until they decide the game is over.
I’ve gotta work harder at playing with my cats, though, because there’s no tiptoeing around the truth: Cats are killing machines. They are also intelligent, majestic creatures who require mental stimulation and exercise, and they form tight bonds with those closest to them.
Here are five reasons why it is important to play with your cat daily.
1. Play makes them feel like predators
It’s no secret that our cats are finely tuned killing machines, who have been hardwired to torture their prey to the brink of death. In fact, this is one of their favorite extracurricular activities.
Alas, our kitties have been domesticated, leaving them unable to fulfill their grisly calling — but that doesn’t mean they stop wanting to be predators.
You can calm the deadly fire raging in your cat’s soul by playing with her for just 15 minutes each day. Try to mimic your cat’s prey — that is, make sure the toy “scurries” away from her and perhaps “hides” behind a chair or on a tabletop. Then, most importantly, let her catch it — if you’re playing with a laser pointer, switch to something tangible. This will make her feel like the badass predator she was born to be.
2. Play is exercise
Approximately 50 percent of cats are overweight — including my beloved kitties, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix. Much like humans, many cats overeat and lead sedentary lifestyles, which contributes to obesity-related health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes, and poor grooming habits.
Increasing your kitty’s physical activity can help her shed unwanted pounds and get back to her fighting weight. It sure worked for a Canadian cat named Tiny, who started off at 30 pounds and lost half his body weight thanks to diet and exercise. Check out his story to see how he did it.
3. Play relieves boredom
It’s Thursday afternoon, and you’ve been languishing under neon lights in a gray cubicle all week with nothing but a computer screen and “urgent” emails from your boss to keep you company. The world feels hazy. All colors are muted. Remember when you tried to tell a joke the other day, but you had to start over three times, and by the time you got it out the effect was lost? Remember when you considered sniffing the Sharpie in your desk drawer, just to liven things up?
This is exactly how your cats feel when they’re stuck at home alone all day. But time moves more slowly for them, so eight hours probably feels more like a damn week.
Play provides vital mental stimulation for your kitty by allowing her to exercise her cognitive and motor skills. To make it even more challenging, use a variety of toys to play with your cat — but never use your hands, as this can cause your cat to develop unwanted aggression toward your phalanges.
4. Play promotes bonding
Want to form a stronger relationship with the bloodthirsty predator who shares your bed? Playtime might be the ticket.
Exercise will help your kitty release anxiety and aggression through mental and physical stimulation. This will make her feel confident and relaxed, which will help her bond with you and the other cats in the house. Play is especially vital for socializing kittens and keeping them engaged.
5. Play is hilarious
Playtime isn’t only fun for cats. Check out these kitties’ hilarious playtime antics. Then get busy re-creating them in your living room. Your cats will thank you.
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