Kittens were born to play. As early as two weeks old kittens will begin to play with their litter mates, and shortly afterwards with toys or other objects.
Nearly all cats which have had normal socialisation will continue to play throughout their lives, although elderly cats will be much more sedate and probably play less frequently.
Play time is particularly important for indoor cats which need to have some interest in their lives. Many cats will make their own fun playing with toys or household bits and pieces, such as toilet roll inserts, old bottle tops etc. Others are not so inventive and prefer their owners to make their fun for them.
Pet stores are full of wonderful cat toys -ones which roll around the ground and others which dangle from doorways etc. Some cats prefer toys on ground level and will rarely play with the dangly ones, while others think it is much more entertaining to leap and swipe at something suspended in mid air.
A great number of cats have a fascination with the herb catnip, and many cat toys are impregnated with it. Some cats almost go into an euphoric trance at a whiff of catnip and if your cat is one of these, then a little sachet of catnip will keep it happy. Prolonged exposure to catnip often results in the cat becoming immune to its effects, so keep it for special occasions.
Play can provide indoor cats with exercise and help maintain their muscle tone as well as prevent boredom. A great night time game is to turn off the lights in the room and shine a torch on the wall -see if your cat will chase the moving light.
Toys must always be safe for the cat -a ball of wool will be great fun but may be
injurious if the cat becomes entangled. Far safer to use a ball or cat toy.
Cats are great explorers and most will get great pleasure from a cats "gymnasium". These are climbing posts, tunnels and platforms and are available from most pet stores. They are usually covered in carpet to enable the cat to climb but also serve as a scratching post. Many have a "cat house" or sleeping platform incorporated.
Playing with your cat is an excellent way to build a bond with your cat. If you adopt an older cat, play will help it feel secure. Some cats do not like being picked up or handled and play enables you to interact with the cat. Try rolling balls to the cat or enticing it with one of the dangly toys.
Kittens will play for hours in an old paper carry bag -it makes a great hiding place and they will wrestle and pounce in and on it for hours. Never give them a plastic bag as they may suffocate.
Forget television and videos - for entertainment value and relaxation, absolutely
nothing beats watching a cat play with one of its favourite toys in your loungeroom.
Article Courtesy of Petcare Information and Advisory Service Australia