Why Playtime Helps You Bond With Your Cat

Young woman playing with cat on carpet at home. Master lying on floor with her pet and holding kitten

Cats are naturally playful creatures. Once you’ve lived with a cat for a while, it becomes evident that anything can be a toy. Most cat owners have had a Christmas tree incident with their cat knocking baubles left, right and center.  Here’s why playtime is so important for your cat and how playing with your fur-babies deepens the bond between you.

Why play is important for cats

As a natural predator, hunting behavior is a fundamental part of your cat’s DNA. Something small and squeaky shoots across the floor, they chase it. Playing helps simulate hunting behaviors, like stalking, chasing and pouncing, so your cat gets to be the skilled predator she is at heart.

Playing with your cat is essential, especially if you keep her indoors. In nature, cats roam for miles, climbing trees, running, leaping and jumping. At home, they have a limited space to explore, so they need alternative ways to exercise.

If your cat is bored, or not given opportunities to chase and stalk things, her mental health will start to suffer. Cats like to be active — expecting your cat to sit quietly all day, curled up in a heap, is like tying an athlete to a chair and then wondering why she’s ripping up the furniture.

Related: The Pitfalls of Feline Boredom — And How to Avoid Them

Providing your cat with plenty of play is also one of the best ways to manage problematic behavior (and stop it from occurring in the first place).If you have a cat who scratches the furniture or swipes at you, for example, you can resolve this by playing with her regularly. Chances are she’s bored and frustrated, and since she can’t tell you that, she’s trashing your home instead.

Young woman playing on the bed with her cat

How playing with your cat deepens the bond between you

The more time you spend with your cat, the more a part of her world you become. Instead of being the strange-looking tin-opener, you become something she interacts with every day, like her favorite toy or her food bowl. She will also mean even more to you, and you will have a much closer bond.

If you have a cat with some behavioral issues or just adopted a rescue cat, playtime is the best way to get to know her and coax her out of her shell. You can see the benefits for days after a play session.

Related: 5 Ways to Make High-Quality Playtime with Your Cat

My cat, Kissy, is an excellent example of this. She was adopted about two years ago, having been out of human homes for a while. Kissy didn’t know how to handle petting or human voices, but she knew how to catch a mouse or swipe at a feather. It gave her something familiar to cling to when everything else around her was different.

Kissy is notoriously snappy and anxious. When she starts to misbehave, I make sure our play sessions are my priority. Playing lets her blow off steam, and it makes her much more affectionate toward me, and the teeth and claws go away. I always feel closer to her, too, which makes me happy.

Playtime with your cat is crucial to their physical health, but it is just as important for their mental health. No one wants an unhappy cat, and for something as simple as 10 minutes with a wand toy, there’s no reason they should be.

Top photograph: Maryviolet/Getty Images

Read Next: Do Cats Get Lonely or Are They Fine Without Other Cats?

6 thoughts on “Why Playtime Helps You Bond With Your Cat”

  1. This is a good article for people who have one cat. But fortunately for me I have two, a brother and sister I’ve had since they were eight weeks old and are now 10 years old. I have a few toys for them but they keep each other company by frolicking and playing with each other. But being that the brother is a little bigger and .little stronger than his sister naturally he plays a little rough with her. But most of the time it doesn’t get that rough. He’ll pin her down but she always manages to escape and go run and hide! I guess that’s their own little version of tag.
    When I’m home and I see it gets a little rough I’ll just lightly tap him and tell him to stop and he does. But still for me, I found over the years that having two was much better than having one! It’s like having two children!

  2. I’m seeking suggestions for a cat who WON’T play — not even with a simple string or ribbon. “Keeper” is very timid, defensive, but affectionate — only if I sit on the floor with her in a quiet room. She’s a rescue from a friend’s property a year ago, and has a profoundly crippled left foreleg. She scuttles around quite well and has a quick-draw paw (gave me a black eye once). I imagine she had a tough life. I feel she needs to get more exercise, but with her disability and our 7 other cats, I intend to keep her an indoor-only cat. She could be as old as 11 — will she outgrow whatever trauma she may have been through?

    1. Try and have the vet determine her age but at 11? I doubt it. Just like with humans, her personality and mindset are pretty much formed. You don’t know what she may have experienced at your neighbor’s house and that “black eye” could have been from years of abuse and neglect and she still may be easily agitated. Plus you said you have seven others in your house, all with different personalities. So maybe she’s going through a tremendous adjustment period which could have her stressed out. I say that the only thing you can do for her is what you’re doing right now. Keeping her inside. Let her come around.

      1. THANK YOU so much for your reply, Bryan. Keeper is the 21st cat to come through our home since 1985, so I have some experience, introducing cats to each other. She’s a first w/ this personality. While she was recuperating from severe health issues the past 10 months, I kept her in a guest cottage to minimize stress — spent many, many hours sitting on the floor with her. Besides not wanting to play, she has no interest in looking out a window. I do take her outdoors for stimulation, only in her carrier though. In the house, the other cats pay no attention, no aggression/hissing. Even the 2 dogs don’t notice her, but she won’t leave her carrier, or under the bed — but a most diligent user of her litter box! She had to have 11 teeth extracted (acute stomatitis), but eats like a champ, wet/dry/treats; her coat has grown back nicely, a lovely tortie. This is all probably TMI !!

  3. Pingback: Why Playtime Helps You Bond With Your Cat – 4Pets

  4. Pingback: Why Playtime Helps You Bond With Your Cat – Growing Social

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