7 Benefits of Interactive Play for Cats

Use playtime to help a new cat integrate into a home where there is already a resident kitty. Food is a powerful motivator for making positive associations, but playtime is right up there as well. Don’t ask the cats to share one toy though. Do parallel play by either having a wand toy in each hand or enlist the help of a family member. That way you don’t risk one cat intimidating another as they compete for the same toy.

Photo: Rompicatz


Is your cat bored? If so, he may seek stimulation in counter-productive ways. Playtime provides stimulation in fun, healthy, rewarding ways. It gives your cat the chance to refine cognitive and physical skills. The key though is for playtime to be done correctly and frequently.

Outdoor cats who must depend on their hunting skills to survive have plenty of prospects for exercise and stimulation through hunting. There are obvious dangers to outdoor life for a cat though. Indoor life is, in my opinion, much safer for cats but they still have that instinct to hunt, which is another reason to provide interactive playtime. Through this type of play, your cat can enjoy what it means to be a cat without having to worry about where his next meal is coming from.


Interactive play is an underused tool when it comes to preventing or correcting behavior problems. It’s a valuable aspect of a behavior plan when dealing with fear, aggression, boredom, depression, intercat conflict, introduction of a new pet or family member, cognitive decline, distress, and more. If you have a strained multicat household, interactive playtime may help redirect one cat’s focus away from another cat and onto the toy. This can be helpful in diffusing a potentially disagreeable altercation. If doing an introduction of a new cat into an already established cat household, playtime is beneficial in helping the cats develop more positive associations with each other.

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If the problem is that your cat displays aggression toward human family members, interactive playtime will help, along with the correct behavior work, in teaching the appropriate object to attack.

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Cats don’t like change, especially unexpected ones, but life can throw you unavoidable ones. In addition to specific behavior work to help ease your cat’s anxiety about new things being introduced into his life, the consistent, constructive interactive play sessions can go a long way in making those changes a little more tolerable. Whether it’s a move to a new home, renovation of your current home, new family addition, work schedule change, etc., it will help if your cat has as much consistency and predictability as possible. Twice daily interactive play sessions that he can count on provides that much needed extra bit of reassurance.


Who doesn’t want more fun in life? Throughout your cat’s life, playtime should always be done. Customize the game to fit your individual cat’s stage of life, physical ability, cognitive strength, health and play preferences. For maximum appeal, pay attention to any toy preferences your cat may have. For example, a timid cat may prefer a smaller toy that seems easier to capture. Some cats like soft-textured toys that feel more prey-like when bitten. Other cats may like toys that make enticing sounds. Feathers may also top the list for many kitties. Note how your cat likes to play and what toys provide the texture, size, sound, and movement most tempting, and you’ll be well on your way to creating state-of-the-art interactive play sessions.

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No matter what type of toys you choose, keep in mind that how you move them can make or break the play session. To trigger the right response, move the toy across or away from your cat’s visual field. It’s that type of maneuvering that more closely resembles how prey would react when encountering a predator. Don’t try to entice your cat into playtime by dangling the toy right in his face or running it back and forth over his body. Incorrect movements can lower the fun factor and potentially just aggravate your cat. Think like prey so your cat can be the mighty hunter. And don’t forget about the joy of successful captures. Don’t keep a toy constantly out of reach because that just ends up being frustrating. To be truly enjoyable, make sure your cat gets plenty of successful mini captures throughout the game and then one final grand capture at the end. Wind the action down as the game comes to a close to let your cat know he has successfully exhausted his prey. End the game by giving your feline hunter a food treat or time the play sessions right before mealtime.

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