So, you’ve got an indoor cat and you’ve read that it’s important to stave off boredom and depression through interactive play. Great! The problem is your cat doesn’t seem all that interested in the toys you’ve provided him or her so far, and you’ve probably bought a lot of them over time. There are actually three main reasons for that. One is age, the other is the toy and the last and most important thing is you’re probably not playing with them the right way.
From Kitten to Cat
When kittens, felines are far more apt to play with toys. Starting at around four months old they gradually begin to lose interest. By the time they’re a year old they’re careening around far less frequently and toys are mostly forgotten. While some cats retain a playful spirit into adulthood with regards to objects and toys, most seem bored and disinterested.
Ok. You’ve tried them all. Nothing works. You’ve got a basket full of like-new cat toys that your cat or cats could care less about. Stop spending money. Get a shoelace, a long piece of yarn or heavy string. Pop off that thin plastic ring that remains on the neck of a gallon jug once you twist the cap off. Or if it has one of those plastic pull-tab rings that you peel away in order to remove the cap, that will work, too. Paper shopping bags and old boxes also work great. Cats actually prefer “toys” like these.
Whether you’ve got a store-bought cat wand with feathers or a shoelace or piece of string doesn’t matter. What does matter is how you employ them. Rather than dangling them directly in your cat’s face and then jerking them away and then taunting them with it again, manipulate the toy in a way that mimics prey behavior. That’s what drives cats. That’s what they’re hardwired for, stalking prey. Prey doesn’t get in a predator’s face and taunt it. Prey scurries, runs and hides.
If you’ve been approaching play as described above, you’ve probably gotten some pretty bored responses, if not downright annoyance on the part of your cat.
When cats hunt they start by quietly and patiently watching. They move on to slow, crouched stalking with a lot of stopping and waiting and progressing along the way before finally pouncing. This is the chase. This is what excites them. Because of this, you want to move the toy or object away from your cat, not fling it in his or her face. Every so often stop and give the object a jiggle or shake. In other words, make it quiver and then hide it from sight before continuing on.
Ultimately, you want to pique their curiosity. Continue to move the toy, string, or whatever it is slowly away from your cat until they begin to stalk it and eventually pounce on it. Let your kitty catch it frequently to encourage play and keep interest levels up. When you’re through, reward your hunter or huntress’s accomplishments with a few small treats.
Cat Toy Tips
It’s a good idea to select a long stick, pole, piece of string or yarn for this game, allowing them plenty of personal space while avoiding getting scratched in the process. Another tip is to not leave interactive toys out for them to see regularly and end up bored with. Finally, if you’re going to purchase cat toys, consider a laser light for them to chase (DON’T ever shine it in their eyes), or the tiny fur-covered mice filled with beads that make noise for sating their hunting instinct.