As with people, chronic stress in your kitty over time leads to problems. Part 1 of this series explained how and why our domestic cats get stressed due to the “unnatural” lives they live indoors, compared to their very closely related wild cats. Often in cats, stress first shows up as unwanted behaviors (scratching, urinating out of the litter box). Over time it can lead to inflammatory and other health disorders like cystitis (a common urinary tract disease). In this last of four posts about basic needs of your cat, the topic is play! Not just any play, but the kind your cat craves.
- Toy wands or “fishing poles” that mimic moving prey are often a favorite. Cats are typically not vertical players, so instead of bouncing the end of a wand, try to mimic a mouse running along the floor or a bird bouncing or flying around, so the “prey” is going away or toward your cat. Cats love to chase and stalk as they move from one area to another. (Yes, this requires some work on your part!)
- Always reward your cat during play by letting them catch the object, and even having their favorite small treat handy as a reward when they do. Verbal positive praise always makes them proud too.
- Toys made of feathers, real leather, or fur stimulate a cat’s touch, smell, and sight senses–making them feel more like they’re in the wild.
- Overuse of lasers is highly discouraged, but if your cat absolutely loves it and it helps get them active, then ALWAYS provide rewards (treats, rubs, and verbal praise) during play and allow your cat to “catch” the dot, then receive the reward. Limit laser use to a short session each day.
Playing with your cat is a great way to increase your bond with them and to get their mental and physical energy put to use. What is your cat’s favorite game? Please share!