I can honestly say it took about 5 months for Darwin to find his happy place. You know the place where you can feel at ease with yourself, when every little thing doesn’t stress you anymore, when life becomes easier and you can enjoy the things around you. For Darwin play time was his saviour.
Play Play and more Play
In my last post I explained how important play is to cats. For Darwin, it bought about a complete change in the way he viewed life. The more we played the more confident he became the more he owned his space and the more he trusted us, (and even liked us). He moved himself out of the utility and into the living room! He did it on his own too….yep one day he just decided that it was more fun where we were.
I brought his igloo into the living room so that he still had a hiding place …… he didn’t use it once! He chose an open basket and claimed a chair which was not used by us very often, were he could sit and watch us from a distance (I’m sure from the look in his eye he was judging every move we made) and lounge on the windowsill.
Every opportunity we got we played!
I’ve even got sofa play down to a fine art….you know the play I’m talking about right? It’s when you are shattered or there’s your favourite T.V show on but your cat has decided now is the exact right moment for getting rid of all of their energy and you have been chosen as their ally and partner in crime! Yes it’s that aggravating time when play is the very last thing on your mind!!!!!! You’ve already played for what seems most of your evening but in reality it’s only been an hour on and off.
It has to be done though, if you are going to get any peace for the rest of the night and, have a happy cat! Your arm goes into play mode, dropping over the arm of the sofa, holding a wand and using the cat tunnel as a prop to play hide-and-seek while the rest of you stays focused on slumping in the sofa for some coach potato time! On mastering this technique, and yes I really have mastered it, your cat can have as much fun as when you are darting around and fully engaged.
The Best Ways to play with Your Cat
- Keep them interested. Cat toys are great but lets face it once you’ve batted a ball around a few times it gets pretty boring. Playing with the same toys in the same way day after day is totally monotonous. That doesn’t mean however you have to go out and spend a fortune on constantly buying new and exciting toys. Swap it up, change the toys around every couple of days, they love finding something when it’s been “lost”. Hide things around the house. It’s a great surprise finding it in an unexpected place. Paper bags and cardboard boxes are irresistible, as are screwed up balls of paper bottle tops and corks
- Play like a cat. Cat wands are fabulous for this. You become the prey, well not you personally that would be a bad thing, but the wand movements mimic the actions of prey. The tiny movements of a mouse or the fluttering of a birds wings make it fascinating and totally irresistible.
- Play games. Darwin just loves fetch. Unfortunately he hasn’t got the hang of bringing the ball back yet but he’s got the chase nailed. Throwing a ball up the stairs and letting it bounce back down gives him endless fun, and helps him exercise his muscles. He loves the ones which rattle as they shoot across the floorHide and seek is also great. Cats love to hide and pounce out. Cat tunnels, cardboard boxes, underneath blankets …dragging a ball on a string through and watching him hide and then pounce out gives me as much fun as him. I love the little butt wiggle just before he pounces.
- Don’t make it too easy. They like a challenge. At the same time making it too difficult will just lead to them being disinterested. Keep it just out of their reach but not so far away that it looks unachievable. The more you play the further away you will be able to move the toy as they become more confident that they are able to actually catch it.
- Let them win. This is so important for their satisfaction. Let them catch the wand or toy. After all they love the kill at the end of the hunt, it’s their natural insinct
- Never use your fingers. This is always going to end badly. What starts out as play is going to end up with a confused cat not understanding why sometimes fingers are toys and sometimes they are not. Keep hands and fingers for fuss.
- Get the timing right. The natural cat cycle is hunt eat sleep which is why it works well to play before tea time then allow your cat to eat groom and settle down to a comfortable sleep. This isn’t always the case though. Darwin has a fit of the crazies just after he has eaten….he’s a little strange that way. So knowing your own cat and accommodating their own eccentricities is really important after all it’s what makes them so special. The one thing that does work for all cats is that as the cat tires, wind down play making it easier for prey to be caught and let them relax their body. This will result in a settled and contented cat.
- Rough play is a no no. The gentle touch is the way to go. There is no rolling around on the floor like you would with a dog or play wrestling. This can lead to you cat becoming stressed and aggressive, you can become an opponent and their behaviour may become defensive. If your cat begins to become aggressive just walk away and disengage, or distract them using a toy onto something else.
So when it comes to cat play variety is truly the spice of life. Play has become part of our everyday routine and finding new ways to engage Darwin is almost as much fun as the play itself. I’m currently cutting holes in cardboard boxes to make play boxes……I’ll let you know how it goes.