We provide our cats with a house full of toys. We pamper them with food and treats. We snuggle them and pet them and take them to the vet (much to their disappointment). But I know that even though we adore them, our indoor cats are still a little bored.
Playing is a great way to beat kitty boredom, provide enrichment for your cat, and give her some exercise, but plenty of indoor cats have all their energy pent-up. Not only that, cats need an outlet for their hunting instincts. Our homes lack opportunities to have the kind of fun they'd have in the wild by hunting, chasing after prey and pouncing on their target. That is, unless we create those opportunities.
To get your feline fur-iend playing like the predator they are, you need to act like prey. Here are four ways you can entice your cat to pounce, stalk, jump, and chase — all with a simple wand toy.
1. Skitter like a bug
Every time a fly gets in the house, my cat is the first one to find it. When I hear that cute little ek-ek-ek sound, I know she’s probably chasing an insect all over the house.
Cats are attracted to the tiniest of movements — even if the prey is tiny like a bug — they’re on alert for subtle changes and the softest sounds. A wand toy can be great for mimicking the movements and sound of insects and bugs.
When pretending to be a bug, I recommend a wand toy attachment that makes a little bit of noise, like the Buzzer or Cuttlefish. Any toy with a slight flutter or rattle will work. In my opinion (and my cat’s) paper works best. It makes subtle noises that only cats can hear — just like bugs.
Now for the fun part: bounce the toy on the end of the wand. Let it fly, skitter, and stop. Think about how flies, spiders, and beetles move. And don’t forget to let your cat catch the toy. In the wild, cats catch their prey about 30% to 50% of the time. You want to keep it challenging, but not too tough.
2. Slither like a snake
Pretending to be a snake is even easier than being a bug. For this tactic, I recommend a slithery wand attachment like our Squid attachment for the Wiggly Wand. Then holding the wand in your hand, lay the attachment on the ground. Move it back and forth very slowly. If your cat stares at the toy, twitches his or her tail and maybe even meows or makes chattering sounds, this is a good sign.
You might also see her exhibit the beginnings of hunting behaviors like a crouched position with her head low to the ground. She may wriggle the back half of her body. And if you’re really lucky, she’ll pounce.
If she doesn’t show much interest, try making more rapid movements or moving the toy farther each time.
3. Scurry like a mouse
Cats who enjoy playing fetch or like to carry toys in their mouths might be most interested in hunting small mammals like mice and voles. My little mouser likes the Bobber attachment for hunting. It’s got just the right amount of fuzz to feel like a little furry critter, and something to grip with her claws and teeth.
I run the toy along the ground and she chases it. Or for a little extra challenge, I’ll throw a play rug over the toy and move it around under the “ rustling leaves.” The rustling sound makes this activity extra fun for your cat.
4. Fly like a bird
No one wants their cat to hunt down all the neighborhood song birds. But let’s face it, cats like to chase birds. Keep yours entertained with a wand toy and a toy that “flies,” like the Looper. Really anything that is lightweight and fluttery should get your cat’s attention if she likes chasing things that fly.
Flutter it through the air like a butterfly or bird, and let it land from time to time. This activity is really fun for cats who like to jump. I have a client whose foster cat — a Bengal — loved to jump. She especially loved anything that crinkled or rustled.
Bonus tip: Give your cat a place to hide out and pounce on prey
In the wild, cats love to stalk, chase and pounce. They also spend a lot of time watching their prey from afar. Collapsible cat tunnels like our Hide and Sneak make a great companion for wand toys because they give your cat a place to hide while she decides how and when to attack her prey.
If your cat isn’t immediately interested in the wand toy, don’t worry — she might not be in the mood to play right now. Try again when she’s more awake or active. If your cat is skittish around the wand toy, try playing with it yourself on a couch or bed first to get your cat used to the sight of it moving around.
Some cats escape with their prey — sometimes into their play tunnel. Let them. They’re off to savor the “kill.” Just keep an eye out for any damage, especially if she likes to bite and shred. Trust me, though, the expense of replacing a few wand attachments is well worth the satisfaction you’ll get from watching your cat play.
When it comes to play sessions with cat enrichment toys, let your cat be your guide. She’s got the natural instincts and you’ve got the tools. It’s the perfect combo for indoor hunting!