Why are games good for cats?
Play is fundamental, right from the kitten stage, because it’s by playing with their mother and their sisters and brothers that cats learn lots of things that will be useful to them in their adult lives, they:
- Learn to coordinate their movements, jumping, tumbling, and falling over.
- Practice hunting skills.
- Learn to use cat language.
- Test their physical capabilities.
- Learn to solve small problems and develop their intelligence.
- Form bonds of affection with their human friends, and also with other cats as well as any other animals in the family.
- And of course play implies moving, so it’s a great way for your cat to get the exercise he needs in order to stay fit.
Playing with your kitten at the beginning of his life
At the kitten stage play is essential if your cat is to develop both physically and mentally in a balanced way, in terms of her health and her behaviour. Felines who don’t play during this very important stage of their development can have problems when they reach adulthood: playing in an uncontrolled way, not allowing themselves to be touched because they aren’t used to physical contact, aggressivity while playing, becoming afraid in certain situations, etc.
Here you have some useful tips:
- To combat your kitten's hunting instinct, it's best to provide toys to play with that move, and that stimulate hunting behaviour in your kitten - but with a focus on the toy, and not on your hand or foot!
- It’s good to play with your kitten every day, above all at the time when he’s most active: afternoon-evening. Don’t get him over-excited though, as then it’ll be difficult to bring his energy levels down.
- Take advantage of these times when you're playing with him to get him used to being handled and touched. This will make things easier when he’s an adult. Very useful for example when you have to take him to the vet.
- Kittens love things that dangle, and that move fast at floor level. But one piece of advice: it’s very important that these things don’t contain any threads or strings that your kitten could swallow and choke on. Be wary of toxic types of plastic, and things with small parts.
- Don’t forget that play is the best way to strengthen the bonds of affection between you and your cat.
Ideas for cat games
You need just three things for playing with your cat: time, imagination, and enthusiasm. You know better than anyone what he likes best, so we at Ultima are going to give you a few ideas to try out, or adapt, whatever suits you best:
These sort of games provide mental stimulation for your cat, because they set a cognitive challenge: how can he get at that edible treat tucked inside the toy?
There are lots of different interactive games on the market, but you can easily make some yourself at home. When it come to using them, you need to make sure that:
- The level of challenge is right for your cat: if he’s a kitten for example, you’ll need to start off with something simple so that he can begin to understand how this type of game works without getting frustrated.
- The materials the toy is made of are appropriate: if you make your own toys at home, ensure you use non-toxic materials, and avoid anything that has small parts that could be swallowed or that could harm your cat in any way.
Cats love boxes, as I’m sure you already know. So sometimes you don’t need to rack your brains for long in order to come up with something that will make your cat happy. Just let him hide, and get into and out of any cardboard box you happen to have lying around the house. Doing this helps to keep him entertained as well as fit.
Sticks and rods
These are cat games that consist of tying a small figure to a stick with a piece of string. As if it were a fishing rod.
Rods are ideal for re-educating your cat, and drawing his attention towards a toy rather than your own hands or feet.
‘Sticks with dangling figures are a great game that children and cats can share together, as in this way you show your cat that what he’s hunting are the toys, and that your kids’ hands and feet are not for playing with’, as the International Cat Care association explains.
Like boxes, paper bags have something that cats love. To make them even more fun, try putting a ball inside.
Small balls that roll fast - a bit like mice - are a favourite with felines. Anything that resembles the way that prey might move will be a hit.
The snake game
A great idea for a homemade interactive toy is to tie several toilet paper rolls together on a string and put some edible treats inside. The movement of the resulting ‘snake’ and the rewards hidden inside are hugely entertaining for felines. And as you can see it’s cheap, easy and fun.
‘Find the lady’ (in this case the treat!)
A cat version of a classic. All you need is three or four small, identical recipients, and some edible treats. You could use empty yoghurt pots, for example.
The idea of the game couldn’t be simpler: all you need to do is to hide the reward under one of the recipients, and then move them around so that your cat’s not sure where it is. The first time you try this with your cat, take it slowly so that he gets to understand how the game works.
- Games for cats are good for both their mental and their physical health.
- Play is a basic need for cats, and helps them to function better in their daily lives.
- If you make toys at home, make sure that the materials you use are non toxic, and that they don’t have any small parts that your cat could choke on.
- Playing with him is one of the best ways of strengthening the bonds of affection between you and your cat.