Can you imagine a day spent doing absolutely nothing? No television, no internet, no trips to the store, no reading… zip, nada. What if a couple of these days were strung together? Not only would we be bored out of our minds, our minds would, literally, begin to degenerate; followed closely by our bodies. We’d probably ask ourselves, “Is life really even worth living?!”
When you think about it in these jolting terms, you realize JUST how important it is to provide your cat(s) with plenty of entertainment, amusement, and activity (mental and physical).
Outside cats get a pretty regular stream of different activities. They don’t always peruse them, of course, but they ARE there! My Hannah is a little bit older, and extremely laid back, so she watches the activities go on around her. Jelly Bean and Queen Fatima (when you’ve had as many cats as we’ve had over the years, you get pretty creative with the names!) explore most noises and activities, unless it’s a really lazy day – then they memo the activity to go ahead without them.
However, make no mistake about it, outside cats still enjoy playtime with their “parents.” Hannah LOVES playing something we call “Sliding Stick” – okay, I call it that, she just calls it “Mew.” I slide it horizontally back and forth in front of her, while she picks the perfect time to pounce. When playing with cats, they love it when you vary the speed of a game like this – fast at times, slow at times. You’ll be able to tell by your cat’s reaction which he/she prefers. When Prissy was younger, she loved for toys to move as fast as they possibly could (the way Alexa prefers them now), but when she got older (like Hannah), I had to make sure the toys knew we were dealing with a “special” baby.
I still buy cat toys for my outside cats, as I do for my inside cat (Alexa) and as I did for my inside girl, Prissy. However, I’ve found that their tastes in toys differ from inside cats. They prefer the natural-looking toys. A favorite (in addition to sticks!) is anything with feathers on it, for obvious reasons, I guess. They appreciate toys that squeak and chirp, but bells seem to leave them puzzled. I guess they never heard an animal that chimed!
Scratching posts don’t really fascinate my outside cats either, but they do LOVE the inexpensive cardboard scratching pads that are treated with catnip. Like Alexa, they think it’s party time when I bring home a new one. Their reaction reminds me of myself when I have something chocolate…. anything chocolate.
If you have outside cats, be sure to spend plenty of time in playtime with them. Yes, the world is their playground, but they’d rather enjoy it with you than by themselves.
While outside cats need the extra stimulation and entertainment, I have to admit, when I think of how critical playtime is for cats, I tend to think primarily of the inside cat. Especially for cats that spend a lot of time alone during the day – without the ever entertaining human to watch. I work from home full time and my daughters (and one of their boyfriends) are normally home, offering Miss Alexa endless amusement. However, if I know we’re all going to be out of the house for a while, I often leave the television on for her. I put it on a channel that’s frequently on (like the Food Network, ESPN, or The Cooking Channel), so she can watch her favorite shows!
A few days ago, she was in the kitchen when my youngest daughter and I stepped out, leaving Alexa home alone for a few hours. This wouldn’t be a huge deal for most cats, but like I said, Alexa’s used to at least one or two people being here pretty much 24/7. So I turned on the tv in the home office for her, since it’s the room she’s in the most often anyway (workaholic cat). I put it on the Food Network and when I came home later, she was on the love seat in front of the television watching Rachael Ray, a personal favorite.
Apparently a favorite of Alexa’s as well.
Inside cats love a wide variety of toys – you pretty much just have to test some out to find your cat’s favorite type of toy. Never overlook what’s right in front of you, though. A paper sack and the plastic lid to a milk jug provide hours and hours of enjoyment!
A word of caution when using playthings with your cat, always make sure its safe. Think through any and all possible outcomes before giving your cat a particular object or toy. Most commercial cat toys have been tested and tested some more, so they’re usually safe. However, always make sure there’s nothing that could come off and choke your cat. Also, beware of these potential hazards:
- Ribbons on gifts, shoestrings, and yarn: If they’re very long, they could become wrapped around your cat’s neck (just as dangerous as cords on mini blinds). Also, some cats have gotten choked on ribbons they’ve gotten into their throats. Never leave them lying around where your cat could “play” with one without your supervision.
- Gift bags with handles: Again, the handles can be a choking hazard. Cats can get their heads/necks stuck and panic. Alexa loves the feel of gift bags, so we get FULL use out of using gift bags. Long after the gift has been given, she loves to sit on and “rough up” the bag. However, I always remove the handles. As accident-prone as she is, she’d find a way to hurt herself.
- Be very, very cautious of ironing boards or anything else that isn’t perfectly steady. Make sure cat towers, scratching posts, etc are steady and won’t tip over on your cat. Alexa broke her little leg in two separate places when she ran, jumped on an ironing board, and pulled it down on top of her. It broke my heart so completely, I’m not sure it’ll ever heal completely! Her leg did, but my heart’s another matter. I learned then that you can never be too careful – you can’t predict what a cat’s going to do, so never take any chances.
The video at the top of this article is a good example of cat parents entertaining their adorable cat WITHOUT FRUSTRATING her/him. I despise cat videos where it appears that the cat is being scared or frustrated. When the video is just pure clean fun, and the cat is obviously having the time of his/her life, it’s a beautiful and wonderful thing. This video’s a perfect example of cat lovers taking delight in their beautiful cat and sharing it with other cat lovers. THAT’S what funny cat videos are supposed to be. It’s also a perfect example of amusing and entertaining a curious cat.
That’s the beauty of cats, they’re so curious and inquisitive, it doesn’t take much to fascinate them. JUST LIKE CHILDREN.
Just be sure you never frustrate, aggravate, or annoy your cat. If they’re agitated, they may look cute but they aren’t enjoying it any more than a human would if someone pinched their ear or tapped their nose. Be sure to always amuse, not annoy.
A few personal tips for playing with your cat:
- Pick your moments. Be sure that playtime is a time when your cat will enjoy it most. Never wake her up to play and don’t think for a moment that she’ll be interested in play if eating is on her mind. Also, don’t play right after she eats… can you say upset stomach?
- When playing with your cat, give her your full attention. Don’t “go through the motions” while distracted by a ballgame, book, or television show. Cats are extremely perceptive and they’ll get more enjoyment from it if their human is having at least as much fun.
- Mix things up. Your cat… and you!… will understandably have a favorite game you return to often (like Hannah’s “Sliding Stick”) but try to mix things up to keep it interesting. Think of it as “nurturing” different aspects of your cat’s skills. One game may keep her sharp and fast, while another feeds her instinct to “stalk.” A favorite game of Alexa’s is to chase my hand as it moves underneath covers. She’ll slink around the bed, keeping low, until she thinks she has the perfect angle – then she’ll pounce on my poor hand! Even underneath comforters and quilts, the “prey” sometimes feels it.
- Never confuse your cat. Add this one to the MUSTN’T ANNOY THE CAT OR FRUSTRATE THE CAT rule. If you’re playing with your cat and he/she gets all worked up to the point of hissing or you accidentally get scratched, realize that YOU took it too far. Don’t get onto or yell at the cat. She’ll only be confused and certain that you’re a poor sport.
- Keep it Fresh! Every now and then I share information that gives away JUST how pampered my cats are, and this is one of those times. I keep a little “toy box” of toys for Alexa and pull out different ones weekly. This keeps them fresh for her and it sometimes seems like she thinks she just got a whole new batch of toys. Saturday is her designated day for the switcheroo. However, she does have one favorite toy that stays out all the time. It’s a little bird that makes a bird sound when tapped. Sometimes she pounces on it and other times I’ll watch as she just walks by and pops it with a paw to make it tweet.
- Get a little exercise while you’re at it! If you “go all out,” you can actually get some exercise while playing with your cats! When I get on the floor for yoga, Alexa automatically thinks it’s playtime, so we usually combine the two. Sometimes she just likes to watch, probably wondering if I’ve completely lost my mind. I catch her expression sometimes and it’s like she’s thinking, “Why, mom, why?”