Play with a purpose: Getting hands on with your cat

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Playtime is some of the best bonding time with your cat. Even better if it is done with a purpose and helps to keep your cat’s body and mind healthy. Each cat has different needs and preferences when it comes to play. Here we break down five guiding principles for purposeful play:

Know your cat’s limits

Play is meant to be fun – and while it may be tempting to get out the cat training book and try to teach your kitty some tricks, the main point is always enjoyment.

Introduce a variety of enriching stimuli – such as new smells, textures, toys and environments which offer them unique experiences without overwhelming them. As they say, leave the party while you’re still having fun. Making sure your cat is not overstimulated so they are ready to play next time.

Keep the benefits in mind

While fun is the most important of the play process, purposeful interaction can also relieve stress, as well as help build and maintain your cat’s muscle tone. Toys are an important part of the process, especially those which simulate the experience of hunting in the wild. This includes toys which encourage them to chase and catch.

Try to socialize your cat

Playing with other cats or pets can also be great for your cat’s well-being – but only if they’re up for it. Getting your cat to socialize can be difficult at first, and patience is key. Kittens generally have an easier time interacting with other cats. For adult cats used to living alone, a new playmate may take time to get used to. Make sure your cat doesn’t feel forced to interact, and keep eating and litter box spaces separate.

Keep your cat’s age and physical health in mind

As your cat gets older, their ability and interest in certain kinds of play will wane. If they are less agile and active than they used to be, toys which require them to pounce, or cat trees may not be appropriate. Give your cat a safe space (potentially even on your lap) where they can stretch out and play without overexerting themselves.

Play nice

Behaviors like pouncing, chasing and hiding are perfectly normal for cats, and your cat is generally not trying to be aggressive. If your cat tries to scratch or bite you, stop whatever play you were engaging in and try something else – it’s important not to encourage bad behavior.

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