How Do I Get My Cat To Play With Me?
Cats are amazing creatures, aren’t they? They’re so much fun to watch, to cuddle with, and to play with. Us cat parents love to watch our cats get night-time zoomies, stalk their prey (aka the catnip mouse you got them at the grocery store last Saturday), and it never gets old when you see them wiggle their butts and pounce.
But what happens when your cat doesn’t seem to want to play anymore? How do you get your cat to play with you?
Cats are extremely intelligent creatures. They need plenty of physical and mental stimulation. The best way to give your cat proper stimulation is to provide them with an environment that lets them act out their natural hunting instincts, as well as their natural stalking instincts.
What seems like hunting practice to you is actually normal play behavior for your cat!
So, let’s take a look at why your cat might not be playing with you AND how you can get your cat to start playing with you again!
Whether your cat has never played with you or maybe they used to play with you and have suddenly stopped, there’s always going to be some reason behind that.
The first step in getting your cat to play with you is to figure out why they’re not playing in the first place.
Cats Play More When They're Hungry
A few paragraphs above I mentioned how the best way to play with a cat is to mimic their hunting and stalking instincts. Pretty much anytime you see a cat playing, it is playing in a way that would help them get better and hunting down prey.
Sure, our lazy kitties are very well taken care of at home with us, but they’re working with thousands of years of evolution. Their brains still tell them that they need to be lean, mean, hunting machines if they want to survive!
A kitty that has a full belly isn’t going to feel the need to “hunt” any prey AKA play with you or their toys. Also, would you want to get up and run around and play if you had a full stomach?
Is Your Cat Bored (Or Sad)?
You would think that a bored cat might get up and start playing as a way to entertain themselves, right? Sadly, that’s not always the case.
A bored cat won’t necessarily walk over to their toys and just start playing with them. Instead, bored cats will try and create their own forms of stimulation. This may include tearing up furniture, terrorizing other pets, or even grooming themselves too much.
Here are 9 ways to tell if your cat is bored as well as some super easy remedies to cure their boredom!
Certain Breeds Aren't As Active As Others
You’re sitting at your friend’s house watching their cat play. They run and jump and chase their wand toys and are just full of fun and excitement. You then decide you want a cat, so you head to the shelter or hop on craigslist and adopt one.
After your cat gets settled in you realize there’s a problem. Your cat just wants to lounge around and is nothing like your friend’s cat. What’s going on here?
Well in this fake story it turns out that your friend has a Bengal cat yet you went to the shelter and adopted a fat and lazy Maine Coon. Bengals are some of the most active cats out there, whereas a Maine Coon is super lazy and chill.
The point of this fake story is to illustrate the fact that some breeds are VERY energetic, some breeds are VERY lazy, and then there’s a whole slew of breeds in between with varying energy levels.
Are There Any Health Issues?
If you used to have a playful and happy cat that has suddenly turned dormant then it may be because of medical issues. It’s important to note, however, that this is rare. We don’t want everyone reading this article to freak out and think their kitty has a health problem.
BUT, having said that, it does happen from time to time. Read this article fully and make sure you’re doing everything you can to give your cat a healthy amount of cat enrichment and human interaction.
If you’re certain you’re doing all you can for your cat and they’re still not playing like they used to, then you need to reach out to your vet immediately.
Do NOT be too embarrassed to call your vet and say “My cat used to be happy and playful, but they’ve stopped suddenly and I’m worried something is wrong.” The vet wants your cat to be as happy as you want.
Do You Have A Good Playtime Environment?
A good playtime environment is necessary for a happy cat. The good news about this is that cats are super easy to appease when it comes to building a happy environment for them.
Cats like to run, climb, stalk, pounce, and chase. Pet parents need to understand how important it is for a cat to have hiding places (tunnels, boxes, etc..), somewhere to perch (cat trees), a good scratching post or two, and plenty of toys.
It’s important to note that cats can and will get bored of their toys. Some cats get bored after a few days whereas other cats might stick with their favorite toy for a few months. It’s a good idea to keep different toys that you rotate in and out over the weeks or months.
Before We Get To The Good Stuff About Playtime...
There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind before we dive into ways you can get your cat to play with you. The two points are VERY important so please don’t skip over them.
Let’s be optimistic here and say that you follow our guide and it turns your kitty into a playtime machine! The first thing you need to watch out for is playtime fatigue. Cats who play a lot will get to a point where they end up tired, or they might show signs of overexertion such as panting.
This means they need a break! If you keep playing with your cat then their brain will keep telling them to hunt the “prey” or chase the cat toy. Sometimes they can’t turn that instinct off so it’s up to you to know when to give them a break.
Cats experiencing playtime fatigue might also evolve into using aggressive play behavior or they might get angry or stressed from being overstimulated.
Depending on their breed and age, cats need about 20-60 minutes of playtime per day. This playtime should be broken up into multiple 5-15 minute play sessions. Kittens are full of energy (when they’re not napping) and will often require more playtime than adult cats will.
Let Your Cat "Catch" Their "Prey"
Remember, playtime consists of you playing into your cat’s hunting instincts. Sure, your cat is having fun playing with you, but their brain is telling them that they are hunting, stalking, pouncing on, and catching prey.
Whenever you play with your cat, and especially at the end of play time, you need to let your cat “catch” their “prey”. If you’re using a wand toy, then dangle the toy or feather in a way that lets the cat actually catch it.
If your cat plays hard for 10-15 minutes and doesn’t end up catching their prey then this can lead to them getting stressed. Playtime fun should be just that, fun. And cats have fun when they get to actually catch their prey.
How To Get Your Cat To Play With You
Alright, now that we’ve got some background on why your cat may not be playing with you, let’s see if we can’t change that! The important thing to remember is that cats need a lot of physical and mental stimulation. Luckily there are plenty of routes you can take to get your cat to play with you!
Cats Like New Toys
Just like kids, cats can get bored from playing with the same toys over and over. One of our cats goes CRAZY for new toys, but is completely bored with them after a few weeks. So what do we do? We buy her new toys every few weeks.
Granted, they don’t need to be expensive toys. A little $3 catnip toy mouse here, a $7 feather wand there, just enough to keep playtime fresh and fun.
If you’re on a really tight budget, then maybe consider keeping toys in and out of rotation. Once your cat gets bored with a toy, put it up in storage for a few weeks and break it back out later on down the line.
Cats Crave Human Interaction During Playtime
You can’t just expect to toss a cat toy on the ground and expect your cat to entertain themselves with it daily for the next few weeks or months. Your cat likely wants you to play with them!
Feather wands are the obvious first choice. It requires you to wave the wand around in a way that mimics a small animal for your cat to hunt. But what about other toys?
You can take a simple catnip mouse and have it “walk” up some furniture, or hide under a blanket. Peek the mouse’s head out, wiggle it a bit, and hide it back under the blanket. Try to entice your cat to hunt the mouse.
There are plenty of options, just use your imagination along with the type of toys that your cat seems to respond well to.
Human interaction is also a great way to bond with your kitty and can even help curb aggressive behavior!
Playtime Without Human Interaction Is Also Okay!
Let me be a little more specific, you should get your cat set up in an environment that encourages them to hunt, seek, and stalk while you’re out of the house. The best way to encourage this type of behavior is by using toys with food in them, such as food puzzles.
Food puzzles encourage your cat to sniff out their treat and then they get mentally stimulated while they try and figure out how to solve the puzzle for their reward.
Cats Love Routines And Schedules
Make sure to have playtime at the same time every day. You might even consider having playtime at the same part of your home every day. Cats are creatures of habit, even when it comes to playtime.
This is important because after a few weeks, your cat will start to associate playtime with specific times of day and with specific areas of your home. Eventually your cat’s internal clock will say “Hey! I need to get up because it’s almost playtime!
Have At Least 2 Regular Play Sessions Daily
We touched on this above, but it’s worth noting again. You should have at least two play sessions with your cat daily. Some experts recommend younger cats get 3-4 play sessions per day.
Each play session should be no more than 10-15 minutes long. Don’t forget to look out for play fatigue during playtime!
Do You Have Good Cat Furniture?
No, we don’t mean a tiny chair for your cat to sit in so you two can watch TV together. Although that would be pretty awesome!
In addition to hunting and stalking, cats love to jump, climb, and scratch. Cat trees and scratching posts give cats the outlet they need to act on these behaviors during their playtime routine.
Don’t have it in your budget to get a cat tree or scratching post? How about an old chair or piece of furniture that you don’t mind getting scratched up? Remember, you should never discourage a cat from scratching, it’s just what cats do. Instead, you should redirect them to something that you don’t mind getting scratched up.
Get A Blanket Or A Rug During Playtime
A small blanket, a rug, or even a bath mat would work great. These things add an extra layer of fun to the mix when it comes to a stimulating playtime.
You can use the blanket or rug to hide toys under and then poke the toy’s head out so that it peeks at your kitty and piques their interest. Cats also love to dive head first into or under a blanket or a rug.
It seems silly, but it’s extremely effective!
Play Bird Sounds In The Background
The writers over at kittyclysm had a great idea. Put on a YouTube video with bird sounds in the background during playtime.
According to their findings, bird noises in the background play into your cat’s audio senses and can increase engagement during playtime.
Anything to help keep your cat engaged when it’s time to play should be considered!
Are You Sure Your Cat Isn't Just Bored?
We just wanted to remind you one more time that cats can get bored just like us humans can, and it sucks just as much for them.
Boredom can lead to destructive behaviors, depression, and more. Check out our boredom-busting guide for cat parents.