Instead of running around in the yard, cats are content napping in a toasty suntrap on the patio or sitting in the window, watching birds and squirrels go about their daily business. They also have a reputation for being independent and low-maintenance. But cats benefit physically and mentally from playing with their owners every day. Here are six reasons you need to play with your kitty regularly.
1. Playing With Your Cat Creates a Deeper Bond
Playing with your cat every day helps to build and strengthen your bond. A 2017 study in the journal of Behavioural Processes found that pet and shelter cats prefer spending time with humans over food, toys, and scents. If you do not play with your cat every day, she will lose interest in you, and simply view you as a strange-looking tin can-opener. She may stop sitting on your lap or refuse to let you pet her, or she could develop an insecure attachment.
2. Playing With Your Cat Prevents Obesity
Obesity is a major problem for cats in the United States. According to a 2018 report from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 59.5% of cats are overweight or obese.
Middle-aged cats between 8 and 12 years old are at the highest risk of obesity. Indoor cats that are spayed or neutered are also much more likely to be overweight or obese. They are prone to arthritis, diabetes, cancer, heart and liver disease, and skin problems like dandruff. Overweight and obese cats are also three times more likely to die early.
To help get your cat back into shape, scatter her favorite treats around the house or toss dry cat food to her during mealtimes to keep her active. Ideally, you should play with your cat for 15- to 20-minutes twice a day, but aim for at least once a day.
3. Playing With Your Cat Busts Boredom
Is your kitty shredding your stuff to smithereens or knocking it into the floor? If so, she is probably struggling with boredom. A bored cat is a naughty cat. To keep your kitty from literally pulling out her hair and terrorizing her fellow felines, engage her with play. Furry mice, plush catnip toys, balls with or without bells, interactive toys, scratching posts, and boxes can help you bust your cat’s boredom.
4. Playing Keeps Your Cat’s Mind Active
As your cat grows older, her cognitive functioning (e.g., attention, learning, memory, spatial abilities) may decline. And she may suffer from cognitive dysfunction syndrome. It is a problem for more than 55% of senior cats and more than 80% of geriatric cats. Feline dementia can cause your cat to wander away from home, stare blankly at the walls for long periods, or forget that her feeding time just occurred.
To help your cat stay mentally spry, try activities that encourage problem-solving like hide-and-seek or the shell game. Treat-dispensing puzzles and snuffle mats are also another way to squeeze more playtime into your cat’s life. Catnip and silvervine can encourage her to play and may even prevent or slow down feline dementia.
5. Playing Keeps Your Cat’s Body Limber
According to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, 90% of senior cats have arthritis in at least one joint, and one in two cats experience pain as a result. Elbows and hips are the most frequently affected joints in cats. Arthritis in the ankles, breastbone, backbone, and shoulders is also common. Playing with your cat every day can help her maintain muscle tone and takes stress off her joints.
6. Playing Helps Your Kitten Explore the World
Playing with your kitten teaches her how to chase, stalk, and trap prey. When she swats at objects with her paws, she develops eye-paw coordination. She also becomes more confident about climbing, jumping, and running. Playing with her littermates teaches her what their ears and tail mean in certain positions. Is your kitten shy? She will feel bolder, stronger, and in more control of her body every time she pins a playmate to the ground.