#1 Be sure not to frustrate your cat. Laser pointers are great for helping indoor cats get a workout. Just be sure to sub in a wand toy or other physical toy at the end of the play session and allow your cat to catch his “prey,” completing the kill cycle. Not doing so can cause compulsive behaviours in some cats, such as overgrooming to release their frustration at not being able to catch that elusive red dot.
#2 Go fetch! Yes, cats can play fetch. Be sure to use a toy with enough heft that you can throw it across the room but that is small enough for your cat to carry in her mouth. Anytime your cat returns it to you, be sure to offer treats or affection. Remember treats should account for no more than 15 percent of your cat’s diet. Primal’s Freeze-Dried Turkey Liver Munchies ($7, primalpetfoods.com) make perfect tiny treats cats adore. If your cat doesn’t return the toy, simply go pick it up—exercise for you too!
#3 Keep most of your cat’s toys hidden away and present a new toy or two every few days. By rotating toys, you keep the toys interesting and novel, encouraging play rather than disinterest. You can also “marinate” old toys with catnip. Place the toys in a Ziploc bag with a bit of catnip or dried valerian root and let ‘steep’ for a day before reintroducing the toy to your cat.
#4 Utilize household objects to add interest to your cat’s environment. Everyone knows cats love boxes but paper bags also make great crinkly playthings and hiding spaces. Or cut off the bottom to create a tunnel! Or why not collect some fallen leaves from outside and partially fill the bag with it? The leaves smell alluringly of the outdoors, make a great crunchy sound, and cats love batting at them/investigating the novel texture. Or throw in a couple pieces of kibble or little treats. Just be sure to cut any handles off the paper bag to be safe. You can also use a paper towel roll to create an easy homemade food puzzle. Just place a treat part way up the tube before presenting to your cat and let your cat figure out how to release that treat!
#5 Play Ping Pong! Ping pong balls are a cat favourite. Their lightweight means they can easily be sent flying across the room with the tap of a paw. And importantly, they’re big enough that there’s no danger of your cat swallowing the ball.
#6 Add ice cubes to your cat’s water dish. Many cats love batting at and licking ice, which is also wonderful as it encourages cats, notorious for consuming little water, to drink more, thus preventing dehydration and potential problems such as kidney disease and lower urinary tract disease. (If your cat is attracted to running water or you’re worried he doesn’t drink enough, consider a running water fountain.)
#7 Play throughout the day. Multiple shorter play sessions throughout the day or evening are better than one epic play session. Aim to engage your cat for 10-15 minutes at least a few times a day. Your smarty cats will love the challenge of puzzle toys by Nina Ottosson. Cats bat at the pegs and swivel the covers to find hidden treat compartments. Adjust the difficulty and even feed your cat from it to engage natural instincts! ($20, petstages.com)
#8 Explore catnip alternatives. In a 2017 study, researchers found that one in three cats did not respond to catnip. Of the cats that didn’t show a response, 75 percent responded to silvervine. And one in three of the catnip non-responders showed a response to Tatarian honeysuckle. Both silvervine and honeysuckle produce a euphoric effect in cats similar to catnip. Try Dezi & Roo’s Cloud Nine Silver Vine! (Starting from $6, deziroo.com)
Need more play and toy ideas? Check out our Modern Cat shop.