For cats, playing isn’t just about having fun. It affects every single aspect of a cats well-being. Here are the top ten benefits of play for cats and kittens.
1. Exercise. Just like people, cats need regular physical activity to maintain their health. By chasing after toys and each other, cats get the much-needed exercise that can help them to live longer and more fulfilling lives. Cats don’t need hours of activity, though. A simple daily game of chase or active pouncing session with a soft toy like our new Little Puff can give them the activity they need.
2. Physical fitness. Of course, the ultimate goal of cats getting regular exercise through play is that they will be more physically fit and will have fewer health problems as they age. A physically fit cat will be happier overall and will be more likely to live longer.
3. Mental stimulation. Cats are highly intelligent animals. In the wild, they are both predator and prey, so they are constantly using their minds to find ways to survive and thrive. In our homes, though, they don’t need to be on high alert, so they will settle into a routine and stick to it. But play that engages your cat in using her mind, will keep her much happier. Try adding in a puzzle feeder or hiding treats for your cat to hunt. By simply changing up play time and introducing a new toy, you will keep your cat on his toes and keep yourself from getting bored with a tired routine.
4. Coordination. You’ve probably heard that cats always land on their feet. And that’s mostly true. The height of the fall and a cat’s physical health are both a factor. To stay limber, cats need to regularly stretch their muscles and flex their joints. Providing your cat with scratchers or cat trees can help them keep their muscles in shape. You can make it even more fun by dangling a wand toy over the edge or sprinkling the surface with some silver vine.
5. Bonding. When we play with our cats, they begin to see us as a part of their “litter.” Regular play reinforces this bond and deepens our relationship with our cats. A satisfied and happy cat will be more likely to be affectionate with their humans.
6. Stress Relief. Animals are prone to many of the same emotions that we are, like stress and boredom. If you’re bored from sitting around the house all day, your cat might be too. Add a new toy to the rotation, like a Wiggly Pong or Bamboozler. Variety is key.
7. Distraction. Cats who have behavior problems like aggression can benefit from play because it redirects their energy to appropriate types of play, like attacking a kicker toy, rather than their owner’s hand or using a scratcher rather than the furniture.
8. Depression Relief. A cat who doesn’t get regular play will often become depressed and begin to sleep more and more throughout the day. Cats should sleep around 12 to 16 hours per day. If your cat is sleeping more than that, he probably needs more stimulation through play. Depressed cats may be disinterested in play at first. Consider tempting him with a pinch of silver vine or a special treat until play becomes second nature.
9. Socialization. If you only have one cat, you might be the only playful interaction your cat gets. When you play with your cat, she gets a similar kind of stimulation that would otherwise be achieved with other cats and it helps her to be more active and social overall.
10. Fun. At the end of the day, play time should be fun for both cat and owner. It can be so entertaining to watch your cat’s eyes light up at the sight of his favorite wand toy. Or to watch him pounce on his Magic Carpet when he finds the hidden treat underneath. By using your imagination and keeping it fresh, you’ll find so many ways to keep yourself and your cat entertained.