Do you play with your cat? All species of animals, including humans, play. Play behavior is crucial for normal development and for overall health and well-being for our pets. There are a lot of reasons that it is important to play with your cats, particularly if they are staying indoors.
- Exercise – Playing with toys, climbing, chasing, etc. All these behaviors help our feline friends to stay trim and fit. Just like people, cats need exercise for their overall health and fitness, and obesity is a leading cause of medical problems in cats, particularly as the age. Play helps cats stay leaner and maintain muscle tone and flexibility as they age. Overall fitness helps reduce the risk and severity of common medical problems such as diabetes and arthritis.
- Enrichment – Although keeping your cat indoors helps with their overall safety, it has a definite downside in keeping cats mentally stimulated. Cats are hunters, and indoor cats have less opportunity to practice these innate behaviors. Regular play as part of an overall enriching environment helps to keep our feline friends mentally engaged. This helps to reduce the occurrence of destructive behaviors and over eating which can occur with boredom.
- Bonding – Playing with your cat helps to form close bonds between you and your cat, particularly if you have a cat that isn’t as fond of cuddling (but really, who has time to sit down?).
- Teaches appropriate interactions – As the mother of a toddler, I am always looking for ways to teach Jack to interact with our pets in positive ways (for the pet). A few weeks ago I handed him a cat toy, and now Kit Kat is his new best buddy. He asks to play with her almost daily and is learning how to play and interact with her in ways she enjoys. It can be a challenge for him to practice gentle pets when he is excited or feeling rambunctious and it is relatively rare that he sits still. Having play as a way to interact with the cats has given him a whole new way to interact that is in line with his busy personality.
- It’s cute – Watching my son run around the house dragging a toy with his new best friend (Kit Kat) makes my heart really happy. I really am so excited that Jack and Kit Kat are starting to enjoy spending time together.
Stephanie and her family moved to Indianapolis from Texas in 2015. She and her husband John have been happily married since 2010. They have a one year old son named Jack. They share their home with two dogs, Torchy and Rusty, and two cats, Timmy and Kit Kat. Stephanie has a BS in Animal Behavior from Southwestern University and a DVM from Texas A&M University. She is an associate veterinarian at VCA Animal Hospital o f Plainfield and has a special interest in veterinary behavior. Stephanie is passionate about being a wife, a mom, and a veterinarian. She loves spending time playing with her son, cooking with her husband, training and playing with their two dogs, and snuggling with her cats on the couch. When taking time for herself, she enjoys yoga, running, reading, and the occasional massage . The views expressed in this article are Stephanie's and do not necessarily reflect the views of her employer.