by Nomi Berger
Nothing spells satisfaction and contentment more than a pooped and played out pussycat. And since exercise relieves stress and boredom, improves circulation and builds muscle tone, there’s no better way to coax out a cat’s instinct to stalk and chase prey than by having them “work out” with toys.
To put and keep the fun in your feline friends’ lives, provide them with toys that engage them in various kinds of stimulation and play. To keep the toys novel or “fresh”, make only a few available at a time, and rotate them weekly. But if your cat has a favorite toy, leave that one out all the time.
Consider the following for feline fun and frolics:
As simple as a stick with a thin piece of fabric or silky ribbon tied round it, it can be waved and twitched, flicked, fluttered and circled through the air, mimicking the movements of an insect, a bird or other form of small prey. With so many varieties of these inexpensive wand toys readily available, other options include wood, wire or plastic rods flaunting such tempting attachments as feathers, strings and small stuffed toys, many of them accented with bells or scented with catnip.
Ensure that once playtime is over, any wands are tucked safely out of sight. Why? Because it helps strengthen the play bond between you and your cat and allows you time to check the condition of the wand and its attachments.
With their movement along the floor mimicking the movement of scampering mice or other small prey, cats are easily enticed to chase after them. To make the balls even more tantalizing and rewarding, insert treats or catnip into some or purchase those with bells or other tiny objects inside them. From crinkly and shiny Mylar balls to quiet sponge balls or even wadded up paper in various sizes and textures, toss them around, then sit back and enjoy the show.
These are excellent for cats who eat too quickly, because these specially designed toys engage their minds and satisfy their natural hunting instinct at the same time.
As stimulating as it is scented, this safe-to-ingest herb (choose organically grown brands without additives) can be stuffed into toys or packed into balls. One note of caution: some cats become overly excited after smelling or eating catnip, causing them to possibly bite, so until you know how your own cats respond, be careful when petting or rubbing them.
These include sharp objects, plastic bags and curling ribbon, rubber bands, paper clips and any article small enough for your cat to accidentally swallow (coins and tokens, buttons and marbles, erasers and thimbles, wine corks and bottle caps …).
To keep playtime fun, always follow your cat’s pace and schedule – whether it be morning and evening, before meals or near bedtime. Determine, then choose, only those toys and games that your cat prefers. Cats’ instincts motivate them to bite toys while you’re playing, and while this is normal behavior (particularly in kittens), do NOT encourage them to bite your fingers or hands as well. If playing turns into rough housing, call a time out, allow your cat to rest and calm down, then begin again.
And so, with an ounce of imagination and a pound of commitment, you’ll find that you and your best feline friend will reap the rewards of a happier, healthier and more bonded life.