While it’s true that cats are typically easier to care for than dogs, felines do require (and benefit greatly from) your time an attention. With a few simple steps, you can ensure a happier life for your kitty.
· First and foremost, if you have a kitten, be sure he has another feline buddy to play with. Cats are the best playmates for each other and will be more likely to stay out of trouble if they have one another to wrestle and play with.
· Do not entice cats or kittens to play with your fingers, hands, or feet. This may be fun and cute when they are babies, but when they are adults with sharp teeth and strong jaws, it’s not so fun!
· Try to use interactive toys: lasers, fishing-pole style toys, and things you can toss are all great options. The LAST thing you want is for your cat to associate your hands and feet with play time.
· Lasers and bubbles are fun, but can also be frustrating for a kitty because they never get to “capture” something. At the end of play time, make the laser “fly away” up the wall like a bug. Or, end your play session with a treat.
· To engage your kitty in true interactive play:
o Cats like to hide from and stalk their prey. They will likely hide from, and watch, the toy for a long time before pouncing. Be patient.
o Do not simply dangle the toy in front of your cat’s face. And definitely don’t hit him with it! You want to challenge the cat, simulate prey, and help him enjoy the hunt.
o Try to move toys in a way that actual mice, birds, etc. would move.
o Allow your cat to actually catch the prey now and again. If the toy always escapes her, she may become frustrated. Let her savor the moment before starting again.
o Think of playtime as a workout – warm up slowly, have a period of intense exercise with the most vigorous workout, and then have a time of cool-down. If you get him riled up and then leave for dinner, he will be highly unsatisfied. For the cool-down, make the toy move slowly, as though it is injured, and let him catch it one last time.
o Reward the end of every play session with a treat or a meal.
o Please make playtime a daily occurrence. Cats are extremely routine oriented and will come to expect and greatly anticipate their play sessions. It’s such a great way to bond with your cat. Aim for two 15-minute sessions a day.
o Keep in mind that kittens may require more play time, but in shorter segments.
· In multi-cat households:
o If your cats do not get along well, you may need to conduct separate play sessions.
o You might need to have more than one toy in your hands.
o Make sure every cat gets to capture the prey.
· Don’t forget to use catnip! Try to limit its use to once a week, or it may lose effectiveness.