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My Cat Won't Play


Pretty much everyone who meets me, client or not, goes home with an assignment to play with their cat. It is so imperative to their physical and mental well being that I often have a hard time believing when someone says "My cat won't play."


But the other day, my cat wouldn't play. I tried every toy in the toy box and every trick in the book. At most he would pace around the room while my younger cat batted, rolled, and jumped to her heart's content. Needless to say, I was very concerned.


Troubleshoot Your Play Sessions

There are a few common easy fixes for play time. I took myself through the following list to try and see play time from my cat's point of view:

  1. What time is it? Cats are crepuscular, doing most of their hunting and eating at sunrise and sunset. Because it was convenient for me, I was trying to get my cat to play on my lunch break. This was a very clear schedule conflict with nap time.

  2. Is your toy moving like prey? Please, please, PLEASE do not dangle your cat's toy in their face. When we play we are going for hunting simulation. What the heck kind of prey just hovers in the predator's face? None. Make playing challenging by hiding the toy under a blanket, waving it just out of reach, playing dead and then coming back to life, etc. Additionally, cats are pretty far sighted and have a hard time seeing things within one foot of their face. Finally, have you ever accidentally hit yourself with a wand toy in the heat of play? Those things hurt! Play carefully.

  3. What toys are you using? Wand or fishing rod style toys are perfect for hunting simulation. Battery operated toys are good for "cheat days" but too predictable for everyday use. Be sure to keep your toy selection fresh by switching things out every now and then.

  4. Have you established a routine? Cats thrive on ritual and routine. When I started my lunch time play routine, my cat looked sleepily up at me like "Huh?" After a week or so of playing with the younger cat, my senior finally caught on, "Ooooooh! We play after people lunch now, got it!" Once a routine was established, he was more than willing to participate. If you just started your routine, set small goals. Is your cat watching the toy? Great! Whiskers puffed out? Excellent! Play will naturally evolve from there.

Observe your cat carefully. Take notes, and chart out which toys generate the most interest. Always end play time with a little snack so they can "eat" their prey and to signal that the session has come to an end. Have fun!

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Feline Humane Education from Germantown, MD

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