Enriching Your Cat’s Life Through Play and “Hunting”

By Olivia Johnson

“Hunt, Catch, Kill, Eat, Groom, Sleep.” In an ideal world, this is what your cat’s day would look like, but often it looks more like “Ask the Human for food, eat, groom, sleep.” Although this might seem like a nice way to spend a weekend, It’s a particularly boring existence for nature’s perfect hunters. Signs that a cat is under-stimulated or bored might show up as acting hungry constantly, overeating, sleeping too much, and excessive vocalization. A bored cat can easily become a stressed cat leading to litter box and urinary issues, excessive grooming, depression, a decrease in appetite, or other health issues. Luckily there are simple ways to satisfy their need for the hunt and enrich their lives!

Playing with your cat for 10-15 minutes before meals is an incredibly effective way to expend excess energy, satisfy natural “Hunt, catch, kill” instincts, and strengthen your bond. Because every cat is an individual, it might take some experimentation to find what catches your feline’s interest. With so many different toys available with different textures, sounds, movements, materials, and scents there’s bound to be one that gets your cat’s attention.

Playing with your cat is like building a muscle, especially with older or more sedentary cats, so don’t be discouraged if your cat won’t play for a full 10 minutes right away. At first, just a few swats at a toy, or look for them to simply make big eyes, at it is a great start (this shows interest). It takes practice! When playing with a cat it’s important to remember to never wrestle them like a dog or use your hands or body as a toy. It’s critical to play in a way cats understand. Grab a cat toy and “become the prey!” Most cats won’t play with a toy if it’s just laying on the floor, but if you make it move like a lizard, bird, butterfly, mouse, or fly you will get them hunting!

You don’t have to end the fun at playtime! Feedings are a fantastic opportunity for enrichment; don’t waste it on a bowl! Playing with a food-dispensing toy is a powerful way to engage your favorite house panther. Something as simple as putting food in a mug and laying it on its side or splitting their meals and “hiding” it in places they frequent is much more interesting for cats. There are food dispensing toys for cats available commercially, as well as fun DIY options!

Keep your cat happy, healthy, and active by helping them get their “Hunt, Catch, Kill, Eat, Groom, Sleep” on!