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How Long Should I Play With My Cat? Feline Necessities Explained

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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If you’re trying to keep your kitty fit and healthy, you might wonder how long you should play with them. Playing with your cat can have many benefits, such as burning calories, bonding, and encouraging proper mental stimulation.

Cats don’t need as much play time as you might think, and it’s easy to maintain a daily play routine. If you are looking for a ballpark idea and want some creative ways to spruce your playtime activities, we hope we can provide you with just that information.

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Cat Exercise: What’s Best?

Surprisingly, cats only need about 15 minutes of exercise twice a day to stay perfectly healthy. However, most cats are happy with much more physical activity. Some felines need more motivation to play games, while others are prey driven, pouncing and climbing on just about anything.

Here are some tips for enjoying playtime with your cat.

1. Read the Room

Russian Blue cat playing toys indoor
Image Credit: milivigerova, Pixabay

Sometimes the time you play with your cat entirely depends on them. If your kitty isn’t in the mood, they might completely ignore you. Before play starts, make sure their attitude allows them to be a willing participant in your games.

We understand that some felines are lazier than others. We are in no way telling you to provoke your cat unnecessarily. However, if your cat is resisting exercise, they may need a little incentive, like tasty treats.

However, completely invading their space is another story. If your cat’s body language clearly says no or if they seem to be stressed or agitated, try again a little later.

2. Break Up Play Time

You don’t have to tire your cat out all at once. You can spread out play sessions throughout the day. You’re golden if you keep up with at least one solid play session that lasts 10–15 minutes. But if you can only keep your cat’s attention for a few minutes, you might do best to play with them when it’s opportunistic. Several short play sessions a day are ideal, as long as the cat is engaged.

Once you know your cat’s personality and activity levels, you can formulate playtime around that.

3. Find Toys Your Cat Loves

It’s going to be rather difficult to persuade your cat to play when they don’t have an interest in their toys. If your cat is a big fan of laser lights, for instance, but you get them plush squeaky toys, they’re probably not going to care much. Or if you have a catnip lover, they might have less interest in a toy that they have to chase around without the effects that they enjoy. When it comes to laser toys, to avoid frustration, you’ll need to occasionally offer them a treat as a reward for “catching” their prey.

Remember what works best for your specific cat so you can purchase a treasure trove of toys. After all, if you’re dragging around a feather toy and your cat has no interest in it, they’re going to just sit there whipping their tail and looking at you without engaging.

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4. Playmates Are Important

Whether your cat lives in a solo pet household or one filled with other creatures, they need someone to play with. If you don’t have a companion for your cat, you could always consider adopting another if the cards are on the table.

However, if it is just you and your kitty, you can carve out enough time in your evening to ensure they get the attention they need. You can follow up playtime with massages and cuddles.

If you are adopting, make sure to test the newcomer’s personality before you commit. If you have a very active cat at home, you will want to get a cat with a similar activity level.

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How to Exercise With Your Cat

funny cats playing on tree
Image Credit: Africa-Studio, Shutterstock

Exercising with your cat is relatively easy. You can get creative and use just about anything in your home, such as a feather duster or a collection of boxes. Even DIY puzzle feeders scattered throughout the house will engage the cats to move around and explore their surroundings. Cats will enjoy different kinds of activities, and it’s important to pick something they’re interested in.

All you really need is to keep their attention. Getting their attention will promote inquisitive behavior and promote physical activity.

Types of Toys to Consider

It might take a while before you pinpoint your particular kitty’s interests. But when you buy any toys, keep those in mind and whether your cat would use them.

Even though there are several toy options available, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of them are safe. Some products are geared toward cats but can potentially be dangerous if ingested. Try to stay away from anything with strings, twine, wool, or threading.

While they are widely used, laser pens are actually getting a bit of slapback these days. Research shows that using laser toys may be linked to aggression and compulsion. Cats are chasing it using their prey instincts, but they can never catch it, creating frustration. To avoid this, remember to throw them a treat from time to time as a reward for their catch. This factor is not true of all cats, of course. But it’s good information to know.

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Self-Play Options

orange cats playing on scratching post
Image Credit: MarinaTr, Shutterstock

You won’t always be available to play with your cat when they need it. That’s why it’s essential to have a series of self-play options available around your household. Your cat will need to sharpen their claws, stretch their legs, and use their muscles to climb. Here are some possibilities that every home could benefit from, permitting you to have the space.

Cat Trees

Cat trees come in all shapes and sizes, from single posts to multilevel paradises. You can get cat trees for your kitties to nap, play, and relax in any intricate design you choose. Cat trees promote healthy exercise and give your cats a place to escape.

Cat Scratching Posts

Cat scratching posts promote healthy scratching behaviors. Various textures will reduce the risk of your cat resorting to your fabrics and furniture. The most common materials used for cat scratching posts include sisal rope, sisal fabric, cardboard, and carpet. You can buy a cat scratching post at pet stores and online.

Exercise Wheels

Exercise wheels are becoming more popular. If you haven’t seen one yet, imagine a wheel you would see for a mouse or hamster; that is the same concept, only in cat size.

The only issue is whether or not your particular cat will show interest. Since it’s a very foreign concept, some cats may veer away from it, while others will be curious about it. You can always train your cat how to use it, but whether they do it on their own will depend on their nature.

Bridges and Wall Hangers

Bridges and wall hangers are becoming more popular in the feline-friendly home. The platforms are attached to the wall, creating a heightened play experience that’s out of the way. Your cat will love the freedom of being able to climb as high as they wish, and the othe platforms don’t take up a large amount of space in the home.

There are many options online to buy these types of fixtures, but you can find just as many DIY projects online that you can draw inspiration from. Some of the DIY wall hangers and bridges are inexpensive but might be a little time-consuming to make. Ultimately, whether you buy or create, it is up to you. Either way, your cat is sure to love it.

Catnip-Infused Toys

Catnip-infused toys often draw cats in because of the scent. Many felines love this herb and rub their faces while chewing, kicking, and playing with the toys.

There are many catnip-infused options for playtime, and most products come with a bag of catnip for refills. However, know that only 50–70% of cats are affected by catnip. If yours is, a catnip toy that is not always left out would be ideal. Catnip effects only last for about 10–15 minutes at a time, so giving the toy to the cat only on special occasions will ensure that it maintains its high value.

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Benefits of Playing With Your Cat

cat playing with owner
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock
  • It decreases the likelihood of health issues

Playing with your cats will keep up their heart rate, which burns calories. Since you’re keeping their blood pumping, it decreases the likelihood of certain health conditions, including obesity and its consequences, arthritis and diabetes.

  • It creates a bonding experience

 Playing and interacting with your cat creates a bonding experience between you. It builds trust and creates a fun dynamic.

  • It improves mental health

When you play with your cat or when they play in general, it releases feel-good hormones in their brain.

Clawing Behavior/Declawing

If you notice that your cat plays a lot with their claws, it might have crossed your mind to find a solution. Even though your cat might be tearing up your things and destroying your expensive furniture, is declawing really the way to go?

Studies show that declawing is inhumane and can do much more harm than good in the long run. Imagine that your fingers were not just clipped at the nails but cut back to your knuckles. That is what it’s like when a cat receives declawing surgery. Other options like nail covers or routine trimming are superior alternatives.

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Remember, your cat needs at least 30 minutes of total daily exercise to stay happy and healthy. It shouldn’t be hard to persuade your cat to get moving, but they might need some extra motivation. It’s always best to have toys that motivate your cat to play.


Featured Image Credit: guvo59, Pixabay

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