- A Guide to Interactive Toys and Interactive Play
A Guide to Interactive Toys and Interactive Play
Importance of Interactive Cat Play
Despite the cliches about cats wanting to be left alone to do their own thing, it is actually extremely important to your kitty that you take time for interactive play with him. At heart, your kitty is a predator and gets a lot of satisfaction out of hunting, pouncing, and capturing. It is possible that your cat can play well alone -- pouncing on inanimate objects, bounding across the room, and more -- but truly interactive play is valuable for many reasons. It can build trust between you and your cat, ensure daily exercise for your cat, provide stress relief for anxious kitties, and more.
Play can also be fun for an owner, as it gives you an opportunity to learn more about how cats think, and, of course, it’s always fun to watch a cat having a ball. There are millions of YouTube cat video views to attest to this!
Types of Cat Toys
Any play session with your cat will involve interactive cat toys.
There is an important difference between interactive cat toys and solo cat toys. Solo cat toys are items such as fuzzy mice, soft or bouncy balls, and other objects a cat can hit around.
Interactive toys are often intended to be used by both you and your cat together. A wand toy is perfect for interactive play, as it enables a safe play session for both the owner and cat. It is important to note that these toys should be put away when you are not playing with your cat so that they are seen as special toys. This will help your cat differentiate when it’s interactive playtime and when it’s not.
Play with your cat everyday. This doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. Plan to spend 15-30 minutes a day playing with your cat. This could be something you do first thing in the morning, when you get home from work, or before bedtime. This low time-commitment will do wonders for your cat’s emotional health, including reducing stress and encouraging good behavior.
An Effective Interactive Play Session
Believe it or not, there are right and wrong ways to play with your cat. The rule of thumb is to think, “How would my cat naturally hunt?” A hunting cat in the wild is very quiet and stealthy, and they build up momentum for the pounce. Timing is key to the hunt as well. With this in mind, consider how you might use the interactive toy to simulate this kind of prey. Oftentimes, cat owners will move a toy around quickly and frantically so that the cat is constantly moving and leaping. While this may seem like good exercise, it can wear out your cat quickly, as this is not a natural hunting mode for them. Typically, a cat’s prey would move in alternative fast and slow motions.
Your cat is very patient when it comes to “going in for the kill,” so be patient while playing. Don’t dangle the toy in your cat’s face or move the toy toward her just to get a reaction. Keep the toy within your cat’s field of vision and slowly move the toy away so that it heightens her pounce response.
The End of Play
Just as in a true hunt, the interactive play session must end with a satisfying capture. The “prey” should slow down significantly at the end of play so as to simulate that it can no longer defend itself. The cat will see this as a sign to go in for the “final kill,” and she’ll experience the fulfillment of dominating her prey. This is when the play session is over.
It is important to put interactive toys away when a play session is over. The cat should only associate the toy with interactive play; if it is left sitting around, it could become a source of frustration when it is not acting as prey.
Toys by Personality
Not all toys are fit for every cat. The main thing to consider is how timid or bold your cat is. If she is generally low-energy and timid, consider a very basic toy that is easy to conquer such as slow-moving wand. If she is high-energy and quite the little athlete, seek toys with a more complicated capture like balls and some electronic toys. Matching the toy to your cat’s personality will highly affect the value of play for cat and ensure their satisfaction with the capture.
Avoid Laser Toys
Now that we’ve reviewed the components of an effective play session, it’s time to consider what toys not to include in play. The essential component of hunting is the satisfaction of capturing prey. With this in mind, interactive toys should be tangible. Major toys to avoid are any that involve a laser chase or similar non-tangible interactions.
Laser toys will get a cat very active and riled up, so it may appear that they are having a lot of fun. However, the end of a laser toy chasing session does not result in a capture, so it can leave a cat feeling frustrated and unsatisfied.
Play needs to be just as mentally stimulating as physically. As mentioned earlier, it’s not a natural hunting mode for a cat to run around frantically and bounce off the walls. While this is entertaining for the human, it’s not offering the proper mental challenge for your cat. The cat needs to employ a hunting strategy during play, and with a fast-moving laser light, they have to resort to unplanned, exhausting motions that don’t challenge them.