As cats age out of their kitten stage, it can be difficult to keep them active. We all know that keeping active is good for the joints, waistline, and heart; this is true for our feline friends as well! But getting a cat to play with you is easier said than done.
Tricks of the Trade
A great way to keep a cat’s mind and body active is training. Cats are not trainable; FAKE NEWS. With the right motivation, cats love to learn.
The key to training is finding the right motivation. Cats who are meal fed are often food motivated (although this is not true for every cat). A tasty treat between meals can be used; the best treat to use is your cat’s favorite treat. Even small pieces of cooked chicken can be used in a pinch!
Training cats is just like training dogs. Positive motivation is key; keep an uplifting voice and reward all good behavior. Start slow; getting close to the right trick at first is good enough for a treat. The first few times a trick is completed, you should ‘jackpot’ your cat. This means giving an especially high reward or many treats all at once. Once the trick is solidified, skip giving a treat every time, to further solidify the trick.
Wand toys are a great way to play with your cat. It helps to create a stronger bond between you and your pet. Cats are often ‘sprinters’; they play for a few minutes at a time, then rest. This is OK! Spend a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes in the evening just playing with a wand toy with your cat to help get those legs moving. Each does prefer a different type of toy; some like feathers, some like catnip mice, some like the stick end of the wand toy.
Many cats love to chase! Throwing a fabric or ball toy is a great way to get your cat to sprint. Some cats are more likely to chase they toy if they cannot directly see the end spot; some prefer to see where it lands directly.
One of the best self-serving ways to help your cat play is with catnip. Catnip is very safe and helps reduce stress! When cats ingest catnip, they often become sleepy and relaxed; when they sniff it (with no ingestion), they tend to become more active. Keeping it fresh is key to keeping it potent. Give your cat a new catnip toy and stand back!
For cats that will not run and will not do tricks, feeder or puzzle toys are a good way to get the mind and body moving. Instead of feeding your cat in a bowl, but the kibble in a puzzle toy instead. They will eat it much more slowly, and have to work through it in order to get their dinner; this will help them regulate their weight better, and take some of the pressure off of you feeding them. To make a puzzle toy at home, get a shoebox or other smaller cardboard box and cut out 1-3 holes about 1 inch in diameter. This forces the cat to paw the kibbles out or move the box.