When speaking with cat parents about the importance of enrichment, something we often hear is that their cats don’t want to play. We’ve even worked through this issue ourselves with a feline behaviorist for one of our cats. The behaviorists shared that a cat acting like they don’t want to play ‘is lying’ because cats that don’t want to play just don’t feel fully comfortable being a “cat”. And we have found this to be true – even with our own cat. There are several ways we can encourage even the most reluctant feline to engage in play and embrace their inner hunter.
The first thing you want to do if your cat suddenly stops showing interest in playtime is rule out any underlying health issues that may be affecting their behavior. Schedule a veterinary check-up to ensure your cat is in good health and discuss any concerns you have about their lack of interest in play.
Cats are natural hunters, so stalking, chasing and pouncing is an essential part of their physical and mental well-being. It helps them exercise their instincts, maintain a healthy weight, and prevent boredom-induced behavioral issues. By recognizing the significance of play, we can better understand why it’s essential to encourage our cats to play.
Tips For Cats That Don’t Play
1. Creating the Right Environment:
To encourage play, it’s crucial to create an environment that stimulates your cat’s natural instincts. This includes providing ample opportunity for exploration, hiding spots, vertical space, and toys that mimic prey. Cats are more likely to engage in play when they feel safe and have a space to be themselves. You can do this with something as affordable as some boxes, cat trees, and shelves they can climb on. This is a great way to maximize space in any home for them to explore.
2. Choosing the Right Toys:
Not all cats have the same preferences when it comes to toys. Some may prefer interactive toys that mimic the movements of prey, such as feather wands or laser pointers. Others may enjoy puzzle toys that dispense treats as a reward for play. Some cats prefer to chase things on the ground while others like to jump and play with airborne “prey”. Experiment with different types of toys to discover what your cat enjoys most. If you change out their toys every few days, it will seem like they are getting a “new” toy and save on the pocketbook. Just take a few toys and hide them in a closet and when they get bored with the toys they have, swap them out!
3. Scheduling Regular Play Sessions:
Consistency is key when it comes to cats. Schedule regular play sessions with your cat, ideally at times when they are most active, such as morning or evening. This will give them something to look forward to daily and keep them excited to engage with you.
4. Using Positive Reinforcement:
Encourage your cat to play by using positive reinforcement techniques, such as offering treats or praise when they engage in play. This helps create a positive association with playtime and reinforces desirable behaviors. Never force your cat to play or punish them for not participating as this can have the opposite effect – and create unwanted behaviors.
5. Patience and Persistence:
Encouraging a cat to play may require patience and persistence, especially if they are not accustomed to engaging in play regularly. Be patient with your cat and continue to offer opportunities for play, even if they are reluctant at first. With time and encouragement, many cats will eventually come to enjoy playtime as an integral part of their daily routine.
6. Practice One on One Time:
This can be challenging for a multi-cat home, but it is great for building confidence and bonding with each cat. It’s also an excellent way to find out what each individual cat’s preferences for playtime are. By spending 10-20 minutes alone with each cat, unplugged and with a door shut, cats will gain the confidence they need to feel more secure in the home and bond with their human!
By engaging more and implementing daily playtime, cat parents can help even the most reluctant feline embrace their inner hunter and enjoy the benefits of play. Remember, every cat is unique, so don’t be discouraged if your cat doesn’t take to play right away. Just keep trying and adapting until you find what is the most effective playtime for your cat!