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How To Play With a Cat Without Toys: 10 Vet-Reviewed Options

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By Kerry-Ann Kerr

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Making sure our pets are happy and healthy is a top priority for all pet parents, and a way to do this is through play. Playtime is essential for your cat, especially for an indoor cat, because it ensures they receive enough mental and physical stimulation. Play encourages your cat to get up and move and practice skills like pouncing, hunting, and chasing.

Some cats enjoy playing with toys, but how do we entertain the cat that doesn’t like them? Below are some ways you can play with your cat without using toys. So, whether you’re here for the fussier cat or want alternatives to try because your cat is a little bored of its usual toys, there’s something to tempt even the most sedentary of felines.

The 10 Ways To Play With a Cat Without Toys

1. Playing Chase

Some cats enjoy being chased, especially if they get a treat at the end. Of course, before you play with them this way, ensure your cat is one of them. Generally, a cat will stand at the end of a hallway or the other side of a room and look back at you as they take steps away.

Be sure to watch your cat’s body language to ensure they’re enjoying themselves because a cat that isn’t will see being chased as aggressive behavior. If your cat’s tail is up, it typically means they’re having a good time. A tail that is down could be a sign that your cat is running away fearfully.

a bengal cat running outdoor
Image Credit: Jeannette1980, Pixabay

2. Light Play

Cats love light reflections, like when you catch the light with a handheld mirror or watch and aim it at the wall. It’s a great way to get your cat moving with minimal effort on your part. Laser pointers work too, but be careful; if you shine them in your cat’s eyes, they could cause injuries.

It can become very frustrating for your cat to keep trying and failing to catch the light. To avoid any frustration, finish up by using an object that your cat can successfully catch.

3. Create Places for Your Cat to Hide

Cats are predators, and they enjoy hiding and jumping out at their prey. Create a place for them to hide, like a cardboard box, or even throw a towel over your coffee table. You could then entice them by dangling something at the entrance to their hiding place, like a feather, and watch them try to pounce on it.

scottish cat hiding in fright under the checkered blanket
Image Credit: Koldunov Alexey, Shutterstock

4. Online Fun

There are apps available for your cat. A tablet would work best so your cat can see the screen clearly. There are better options for getting your cat to be active than this, so apps should only be used occasionally. But the moving fish, mice, and other little critters will definitely spark your cat’s curiosity!

5. Paper Ball

What seems boring to us will keep your cat fascinated, even when it’s trash! Crumple up a piece of paper and roll it across the floor. Make sure you dispose of the paper when you’re going to bed, or it will be made into confetti by morning. Toilet paper rolls also work for this game. They’ll roll unexpectedly when your cat bats them, and your cat will have endless fun.

crumpled paper balls
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

6. Paper Bag

Keep some clean paper bags after grocery shopping. Your cat will enjoy exploring the bag. They’ll pounce on it, bat, and scratch it. Make sure there isn’t any food residue in the bags since some human food is toxic to cats.

7. Plastic Bottle

Make sure the cap is screwed on tightly, and roll the plastic bottle toward them. The unpredictable movements of the bottle and the hollow sound will have the cat scrambling to chase it down. You can make it more interesting by putting uncooked rice or a little water inside to weigh it down slightly.

This will also produce different sounds, which will interest your cat. Plastic bottles come in many sizes, so play with them to see which your cat finds the most interesting. A colossal bottle might be too intimidating for your cat, however!

empty plastic bottles
Image Credit: isidingo, Pixabay

8. Teach a Trick

There are many tricks that you can teach your cat and what is required is time, patience and treats. Start with “sit” or “fetch”. Rewarding the behavior you are trying to train and pair it with the cue word.

9. Set Up an Obstacle Course

You can use items that you have around the house to set up an obstacle course. Encourage your cat to go under, over and round obstacles by tempting them with treats.

cat playing with a ball and a tunnel at home
Image By: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

10. Foraging

Hide tasty treats around the house or a room and get your cat to hunt them out, foraging themselves a lovely array of treats. Alternatively ditch the food bowl and scatter their kibble along the kitchen or hallway floor and get them to work for their dinner.


Playing with your cat doesn’t always require commercial toys; sometimes, something as simple as an old water bottle will entertain them for a while. Playtime is an excellent way to keep your cat mentally and physically stimulated, but it’s also a way to strengthen your bond. So, we hope you’ve found something that works for you and your cat!

Featured Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

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