How to Satisfy Your Indoor Cat's Need to Hunt

Wand toys are probably the most popular toy with both owners and their cats. Personally, I think it’s because these versatile toys hit on a few key points for both humans and pets. First, there’s nothing easier than pulling out a wand toy at playtime. If you have one like our Wiggly Wand, you just swap out the attachment and it’s a whole new toy. That means your cat gets tons of variety in just one toy that can become any type of “prey.”

tabby cat reaching for a squid wand toy attachment

Cats can easily become obsessed with their wand toys because the attachments allow them to engage in several behaviors that are key to cats’ hunting instincts. But what if your cat just likes to watch and never attacks? Is that normal?

The short answer is yes. Focus and obsession on their “prey” is perfectly normal. The long answer is a bit more complicated, but also truly fascinating.

orange tabby cat crouched on a brick focusing on something in the distance

Cats start off their hunt, whether pretend or real, with focusing on their prey. With eyesight that is 40 times better than humans, cats can see the most subtle movements like breathing or blinking. This means that a big chunk of their hunting sequence is all about observing. This is a natural and necessary part of play for them. Just because she’s watching instead of pouncing, doesn’t mean she’s not engaged.

white cat crouched on the floor looking intensely at something in the distance

Some cats turn focusing into an art form and will become obsessed with watching the movement of their prey. For this reason, erratic movements may work best with a cat who becomes hyper-focused during playtime. Mimic the movement of a small animal and watch for signs of interest in your cat. If she’s crouched low to the ground, eyes wide and watching, she’s hunting, and you can keep her intrigued by paying attention to when she gets the most focused and repeating that behavior.

ginger tabby cat in the grass in a stalking pose

Cats will spend a lot of hunting time thinking, watching, and calculating. They may not pounce because the conditions are not optimal. Or maybe she’s not hungry, or she’s simply biding her time. Don’t give up if she’s using her brain instead of her paws. Your cat needs mental stimulation just as much as she needs physical activity.

That said, if you’re concerned your cat isn’t getting enough exercise, consider rotating toys. Maybe she’s bored with her current wand toy. Our Wiggly Wand is compatible with several attachments that mimic realistic prey that you can swap out whenever your cat becomes bored.

 assortment of cat wand toy attachments

Finally, try to be patient. If your cat has been inactive for some time, getting her to play may feel a bit unnatural to you both. Try new things. Grab a pinch of catnip or silver vine, and see what interests your cat the most. You may need to bring the toy to her, but eventually, she will attack. Even if it’s a small nip or swat.


  • Jennifer Boaro

    I have noticed that my cats will sit and wait, and they are watching the whole time. Sometimes they seem to be taking a break from the high energy play. Another thing I’ve noticed is that when both cats are present, there is more waiting. In fact, sometimes when both cats are there, no play happens at all. They just both sit and watch. Do you suppose this is about sharing resources and territory?

  • Edgar Alexander

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with the world. My focus is to make sure my cat remains physically active and visibly happy but at times I noticed that he would just watch and not engage which leads me into confusion. At those times, I would switch toys and nothing. After reading this article we decided to take a different more passive approach. We actually sat down on the floor to my cat’s level and play pretend with the wand as if it was a “prey” carefully roaming around and hiding behind obstacles. Patience actually paid off. I realized that even though my cats has always been a crazy action ninja, that now he is also interested in a more passive way of playing and observing… I now feel relieved and awesome to know that this is completely fine! :)

  • Emily Sullivan

    Great article! I love sharing your blog posts to my cat rescue’s FB page! I foster cats and kittens, and consider myself pretty well equipped to get them to play, but I had one adult foster who would not engage. I tried everything in my arsenal (wiggly balls and catnip alternatives from Dezi Roo included) to mimic live prey… ground and air prey… but she wouldn’t budge. What I finally found that worked for her was a wand toy, but no dangley, wiggly or flighty or delicate movements, no, I had to WHIP IT so fast across the room. Like so fast you couldn’t even see the toy on the end. But that’s what she loved!

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