Part 1 of Cat Playtime was about why and how you should play with your kitty. If you haven’t read that post, please do so, then return. If you’ve already read it, then you know how long to play, how to make your own toys, and what the secret ingredient to a successful playtime is. You now know the basics of playtime.
But sometimes, the basics are not enough. Sometimes, you’ve done everything right, and Mittens still won’t join in. She just watches you wave toys around, with a bored look on her face.
Well, there are 9 possible reasons for this, so let’s go over them.
- You are using the wrong type of toy. Every cat is different, and each one has his or her own favorite toy. Garfield prefers spiders. Hugh the cat’s toy of choice was a laser pointer (Hugh was the inspiration behind Simon’s cat). Grumpy Cat hates all playthings equally. It’s up to you, the owner, to determine which toy suits your kitty best. There are thousands of toys out there, but they all boil down to a few basic types—toys that act as fake snakes, or fake mice, or fake birds. Buy one of each, and you are well on your way to figuring out your cat’s preferences.
- The toy is too close to her face. It seems counter intuitive, but cats are less likely to play when you stuff the toy right up in their faces. Cats are farsighted, which means they have trouble seeing things up close, but objects far away are clear. This makes sense if we consider the house cat’s wild ancestors. In the wild, no prey would throw itself into the lion’s mouth. Prey always stays as far away as possible. Therefore, cats spot their target at a distance, then ambush it. So move the toy away from Mittens most of the time.
- Your patterns are too predictable. If you drag a string from side to side, and that’s all you do, then your cat will be bored. James Harriot once said that “cats are connoisseurs of comfort” and I would argue that they are also connoisseurs of mental stimulation. So be creative. Run the toy not just left and right, but also up and down, over and under objects, behind and in front of furniture. Try varying the speed that you move the toy.
- You make it impossible for her to “win”. Number 3 is due to not quite knowing how to play with a cat. Yet this reason, number 4, is due to being too good at kitty playtime. Whenever Mittens jumps at the toy, you always have it escape. While this works good at first, Mittens eventually learns that there’s no hope in catching this prey. Cats are smart. When they know they’re out matched, they quit, saving their energy to hunt prey they can actually eat. So it’s important for you to let your cat win sometimes. Once Mittens has “killed” one toy, move to the next if she still seems playful.
- It’s the wrong time of day for play. This is strange, I know, but it’s absolutely the truth for my cat Autumn. She will only play when she is in the magical mood, usually early afternoon or late at night.
- Your cat prefers playing in spurts, not constantly. Again, this is the case for Autumn. She will never play for the recommended 15 minutes straight. She might play for a few minutes, then rest, then play a bit more. She is like a sprinter, not a long distance runner. You will need to puzzle out which type your own cat is.
- She is food-motivated. Once more, let’s think about how big cats hunt in the wild. Cats hunt because they need meat to eat. So a great way to inspire your kitty to play is to feed her afterwards. If this still doesn’t help, you might need to use an actual treat. After letting her sniff the treat, have Mittens chase the treat through tunnels, upstairs, and on and off of tables. Remember to give her the treat at the end, and this could be a great workout, for both human and feline.
- She has a medical problem. This may seem extreme, but lethargy could be a sign of an illness, especially if your cat always used to be energetic. Like when you have the flu, and all you feel like doing is lying in bed, so too might your Fluffy lie around. Of course, a cat who is growing older is a possible exception to this rule. Thus, it’s important to look for other symptoms, but when in doubt, go to the vet.
- Last of all, your cat might just be lazy. Thinking this about your cat should be a last possible resort. For if this is true, then there’s almost nothing you can do to fix the problem. Perhaps the only thing that might help is catnip. Try buying toys stuffed with the plant, or buy a pouch of catnip and put an old toy in it. Leave the toy in there several days before taking it out and hopefully playing with your lazy kitty. However, I would recommend not using catnip very often; no more than once every few weeks. After all, it is a drug of sorts.
There. Hopefully this cat “troubleshooting” has helped you get your cat moving.
If not, let me know in the comments, and I shall do my best to lend a hand.