Informal study: Cats' favorite games
"Paws down", this is what I discovered....
(Cat featured in photo: Todd)
Cats love to play - well, most of them do. There are some curmudgeon cats out there that choose not to play and that could be for a whole host of reasons, but that is a post for another week. Today's post though is about the cats that do like to play, and what activities I discovered they liked best.
This was not a scientific study by any means, but something I curiously observed during my one-month-shy-of sixteen years of pet sitting.
Over those many years, I've probably pet sat for maybe a total of 100 cats or so. I never counted, but that is my good faith estimate for you. I've played many cat games with them - some I introduced to them based on their personalities, and some that their owners told me they liked, and some I discovered just by having fun with them.
So, I'll start with the A # 1 toy that cats like: the fishing pole toy in all its designs, sizes, colors, and speed of swishing. However, I discovered one specific activity with the fishing pole that they all seemed to love the best. I think it is fair to say that all the playful cats I pet sat for reacted positively (and hysterically) to this one way of using the fishing pole.
I called it (for lack of a creative term) the POLE AND RUG GAME. Here is how it was played and what resulted in happy cats with darting eyes, swishing tales, bums swaying ready to pounce, and all attention focused on getting the prize at the end of the fishing pole.
Very simple.....just find a relatively small throw rug in the client's home. Sit on the floor next to it. Take the fishing pole toy and put the end of it (the feathers or whatever is at the end of it) under the rug, somewhere in the middle. It will form a natural bump under the rug. At this point, any friendly cat should be right there next to you ready to play.
Then, just gently tug the fishing pole and the lump under the rug will move. At this point, most playful cats jump on it, try to dig under the rug, run around, and then pounce hard on the end of the toy when it pops out from under the rug.
Simply, joyful fun, and the cats rarely want this playtime to end!
Another alternative, if there are no throw rugs in the house, is to toss the end of the fishing pole under a sofa, or bed (works well if there is a bed skirt).
I've found that cats get bored more quickly if you are just swishing the pole on the floor - they like the sense of hunting for something, and this game is the cat's meow.
A second favorite is the perennial LASER LIGHT fun. This game, especially if a long hallway is involved, is a favorite of cats. It is also a great form of exercise for them. The only downside I see to it is that I think it must be frustrating for cats after a while because they really can't catch light because there is no solid form. So I've found that after a few minutes the cats just walk away.
A third favorite, for obvious reasons, is the CHASING THE TREAT game. I would do this as a final game during playtime. Take a few of their favorite treats and toss them down a long hallway or bigger room. They chase the treats so they get a little activity and then they enjoy the treat.
For the clients that had treat balls, I'd leave a few treats in the ball before I left so they'd have something to do when they were alone.
So, these are the top games I found that cats liked during my pet visits for all those many years of pet sitting.
TIP: As an added treat, for some of my cat clients, I'd buy a special toy to use just during my pet visits. It would be kept with me and I'd toss it in my bag the days I'd be pet sitting for them. Most of the time it was a fishing pole toy, but it was brought out special just when I was there. No other cats would use it so there were no germs passed from one cat to another. This new toy brought extra special spunk to their playtime.
Pet sitters and owners, if you have another favorite game your cats like to play, please e-mail me and let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org