Cat guardians are always telling me that their cats show no interest in playing, yet their play/prey drives are misfiring like an antique musket. They tell me that their cats get bored easily and just sit there, staring blankly at the toy moving in front of them without budging an inch, but at night time they stalk ankles like a ninja. Is your cat truly bored? Maybe it’s the way that you’re playing that has them waiting for something better to happen. Let’s discuss.
As a consultant that visits your home, I see all the lonesome toys that you choose for your cat. I see the baskets (aka toy graveyards) filled with discarded and skinned mice of all sizes, clunky automatic toys, broken wands, wet and shriveled feathers, laser pointers, cat dancers, catnip socks, rainbow fleece shoelace things that are disintegrated from cat saliva and that homemade contraption that’s hanging by a thread and falling apart, but it’s the only thing your cat truly loves anymore. We can do better. Let’s troubleshoot some of the potential problems.
Don’t take the art of play for granted. It’s not always easy to keep your cat’s eyes on the prize. Let me ask you some crucial questions about how you get down with the business of cat play:
- Are you sitting in a chair, waving the toy around in a two-foot radius?
- Are you moving the toy back and forth, so quickly that your cat just watches it for a few minutes, get’s confused and then gives up?
- Are you… yes, YOU, petering out before your cat does?
- And finally… Are you being the toy? That’s right, are you making the toy move like the actual creature that you are simulating?
Here are five key pointers on how to BE THE TOY!
Pick the Right One
Cats like to chase small, lightweight toys that are easy to carry in their mouths. I find that pretty much every cat that I meet likes Neko Flies because they are realistic looking and if moved correctly, spark that prey drive almost instantly. I also like DA BIRD because it flies and sounds like a real bird. Your cat might like less noise and more skittering. Finding the right fit for your cat’s play style takes some awareness of what makes those eyes light up. Pay attention.
Don’t Be a Couch Potato
If you’re sitting down, you are limiting the playing field. Get up and move that toy around the room like a mouse, bug or bird would. Cats want prey to run away from them, not run to them. You are failing at making it seem realistic if YOU are too lazy to get up. Take some time and be the toy. Forget what happened at work today and take 15 minutes to clear your head and be a bug instead.
Keep Your Distance
Don’t use short wand toys with a toy on the end that have you leaning over and lurching around the room. Your cats will likely just advance right up your arm and nail you. Choose a toy with a long wand and a long string, so that your cat only concentrates on the toy, not you. Being the toy means separating your physical self from the action. Get your mind inside the toy instead.
Use the Environment
Keep prey targets moving along walls, around corners and through the cracks and crevices. Cats like challenges. You’ll notice once something is harder to catch, a cat seems to want to catch it even more. Weave in and out of table legs and between couch cushions. Make it worth it.
“Now You See Me. Now You Don’t”
Cats LOVE it when a toy suddenly disappears. Try this experiment. Move your prey target to a doorway and pause at the doorsill. Now make it turn the corner out of view. That one moment where it disappears is golden. You’ll notice your cat take chase once the toy is “getting away”. You can try this under the rug or in a bag or basically anywhere a toy can crawl under. Never make a toy run to the cat. That’s just ridiculous. Watch for the wiggle. The wiggle is worth the wait.
If you can just concentrate on the toy and be in the moment, you’ll find your thoughts jumping into the mind of the creature that you are simulating. You’ll find that your worries drop away. Try this for fifteen minutes a day. Meditate on mouse movements. You owe this quiet time to yourself and your cat will be very grateful for the hunt.