When kids are small, they learn a great deal by means of playing: for instance, when you build a tall pile of bricks, it’s going to collapse. Play can also be an essential learning technique for kittens. They can’t be told what to do, so they need to practise and experience the world around them by means of play. When a kitten has been taken from its mother and litter mates, however, it is up to you to promote play.
Although we tend to consider kittens to be especially playful, most older cats take pleasure in chasing after balls on strings, or pawing at a duster even! Play will keep your cat healthy.
The most basic toys are produced by tying something – a golf practice ball or a bunch of feathers – to the end of a string. Such toys are also safe for both the cat and the people around. The idea is to get the cat interested in the toy, and then all of a sudden jerk it away from the cat, so that it pounces on what it believes is its prey.
Most people enjoy spoiling their pets every once in awhile, and another way of giving your cat a treat is to buy it a toy to play with. How cats play mimics how they capture their prey: they will pounce on a mouse or take a swipe at a bird, for instance. So it will be suitable to purchase toys that mimic the creatures they hunt: catnip mice and feathers on the end of a piece of string are obvious choices. However, just as tiny children seem to prefer the wrapping paper to the gift inside, so cats are just as happy with improvised toys: a rolled-up piece of paper or a ball of wool, for instance, are just as popular as a custom made toy.
Needless to say, cats have a habit of pouncing on you for a lively game just when you’re in a frame of mind to sit and read the newspaper. Indeed, they could find the newspaper itself a lot more fascinating than any toy – primarily because they realise that if they play with the newspaper they will bring you into the action (trying to get back the paper). They like the interaction and attention just as much as the particular toy.
Every cat has a different method of play, but many cat behaviourists would concur it is especially vital that you have fun with young kittens, and help them learn good play practice. Pull a string over the ground, and the kitten will intuitively observe, waiting for the best time to pounce. This kind of play will educate the eyes, enhance co-ordination and build muscle mass. Roll a ball of tin foil, and your kitten will be intrigued, joining in by pawing at the ball, pushing it round the room.
SAFE CAT TOYS
Trustworthy pet shops will have thoroughly tested toys for sale: it’s important that toys are safe – that the eyes of stuffed toys can’t be pulled out or that the squeaker inside a rubber gadget is not going to come out with use: ingesting small things like these might lead to a trip to the veterinarian. The majority of cats are content to improvise with an empty plastic container or scraps of paper. Nevertheless, make sure that any improvised toys are safe, without any razor-sharp edges or corners that could be chewed off.
Playing is essential in the event you keep your cat inside your home: indoor cats don’t get as much physical exercise and entertainment as cats that are permitted to roam.
Sewing needles, burning cigarettes and rubber bands are especially hazardous ‘toys’ so don’t leave these lying around.
Loud toys and games will assist you to teach cats to make use of their hearing – an additional discipline in the hunting process, however watch out for toys that contain small bells, which can come out in the course of play.