Tips for keeping your cat mentally stimulated and physically activated

Tips for keeping your cat mentally stimulated and physically activated

Unlock the secrets to keeping your cat active and healthy through play. Discover why playtime is essential for both indoor and outdoor cats, and learn how to engage even the most lazy cats and how to tire out energetic kitties. Explore tips on grabbing your cat's attention and find out which toys and tactics can be used to let you sleep through the night, undisturbed. Plus, uncover the secret to keeping toys interesting for longer. Get ready to dive into a world of enriched playtime!

Why should I play with my indoor cat?

Playing with your cat is a crucial part of cat ownership. Cats have a lot of energy, and especially indoor cats need a lot of play and stimulation to stay healthy. Indoor cats don’t get the same stimuli from their environment as outdoor cats, and therefore require more playtime. Playing with your cat is also one of the best ways to create a strong bond between you. Cats grow up playing with their brothers and sisters as kittens and keep that behavior throughout their life with their cat friends, relatives or not. Mixing play and cuddles between cats or cats and humans strengthen the bond between them, as both exercise and safety is necessary for a healthy life. You will often notice that the owner that plays the most with the cat often also gets the most cuddles in the household.

Do I need to play with my outdoor cat?

Outdoor cats get more stimulation and exercise by themselves from their environment. They intensively watch birds, hunt mice and flies, run through thickets of grass and climb trees. While most of these natural behaviors can be recreated in an indoor environment, the outdoors definitely has more stimuli than an indoor environment. While your cat might get a lot of natural play while on their outdoor adventures, it is still important to play with your cat. Bonding comes from spending time together with your cat, playing and providing food and safety. Since outdoor cats usually spend less time with their owners the act of playing becomes an even more important pillar of cat and owner bonding. Is your outdoor cat not really the cuddly type? Try playing with them regularly and I’m sure that you will get more snuggle time with them!

recreated outdoor environment indoor wall climbing

How do I tire out my energetic cat or kitten?

Some cats have a lot of energy - and I mean a lot. Swinging from chandeliers, jumping on top of the kitchen cabinets, swatting at your feet, running like a lunatic with a bag stuck to its head kind of energy. This often means that the cat is bored and in need of stimulation and exercise, something to burn off some of that excess energy. When the cat is in this state then the main challenge isn’t to get him or her warmed up and ready for play - it’s to capture and keep their attention!

And how do I capture the attention of my raving cat or kitty?

  • Sounds
  • Quick movements 
  • Eye-catching colors
  • Playing hard to get
  • Hunter becomes hunted

In this situation you need to pull out all of the bells (pun intended) and whistles. Bells, crinkling silver plastic strips, feathers, bouncing plastic thingies - anything that makes a lot of noise and has quick, dashing movements. If you want to really make use of this situation and give your cat a much needed run then use a solid cat teaser wand, one of those without a string at the end connecting it to the fun part, whatever that may be. 

The advantages of the stick without string in this situation are that you can: 

  • Intensively razzle the fun end of the stick to create more noise,
  • Make quick and sudden dashing movements like a hunted mouse, and
  • Keep the cat bait just inches away from the cat’s reach

By keeping the bait just out of paws reach the cat will intensively sprint and give it everything just a bit longer than if it was further away or more easily caught. Cats need a good challenge and playtime should be just that, a hunting challenge, not a time where toys are willingly caught.

Another way to entertain certain cats who are rallied up is to wrestle with them a bit using a plush toy that is similar or smaller than them in size. Cats often wrestle each other for play, both when young and when older. Cats have different needs for activation which can lead to one cat wanting to wrestle much more often than the other - then this works wonders! Let them kick, fight, claw and overpower the plush toy while you hold on to it and retreat, attack and roll over just as their cat friend would.

How can I get my uninterested cat to play more?

All cats play, you just need to find their particular kryptonite. “The fun-ness of a toy is in the eye of the beholder” as a wise cat once said. Some cats love sparkles, others enjoy chasing anything mouse shaped, some prefer textile and others prefer crackling noise of plastic strands. You might have to try a lot of different types and tactics to get your cat interested, but I promise you that with enough swings you will eventually get a home run.

cat playing with mouse textile toy

Some popular types of hands-off toy products are:

  • Small mice
  • Textile pouches filled with catnip
  • Plastics springs
  • Ping pong balls
  • Crackling balls of thin sheets of silver plastic

And some common household items that make excellent toys:

  • Hair ties
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Crinkled paper
  • Balls of aluminum foil
  • Bobby pins

Once you start to notice what kind of materials, smells, noises and shapes that start to entice your cat's playing sense then you need to understand how to best use them. 

How do I play with my cat?

Preferred playing tactics is also something that differs from cat to cat, but there are some best-practices that most often gets your cat playing, regardless of age or laziness level!

Cats are curious and proud creatures - but what does that mean for you?
That means that they are often more intrigued if they have to solve a puzzle by themselves, rather than giving them the answer. An example of how this comes into play (pun definitely intended) during playtime is that a rattling sound in the other room or hidden behind a curtain is probably more exciting than seeing your favorite mouse toy being dazzled in front of your face. 

Playtime should be hard. Playtime should be challenging. So don’t give up the bait too easily. Make the cat work for it, and be sneaky. Move around and hide the bait behind and inside things. Our cats almost never get as excited as they get from hearing a toy being razzled inside a cardboard box.

When your cat finally catches their prey, after long minutes of playtime mind you, then let them bask a bit in the glory from their victory. Cats will often walk around with it in their mouth, lay down and chew on it or bring it to your feet to really revel in their fresh catch. Give them their moment. But when they least expect it and have gotten a bit lazy with it, then snatch it from them and repeat the whole process as long as they have the energy to spare.

Often once you’ve warmed your cat up and gotten them into the zone of hunt and play then they can run and jump for miles! A good toy to have in your arsenal for these situations is a longer teaser wand with a string at one end. Putting the bait on a string versus directly on the end of the wand allows you to swing the bait across the floor for longer distances, so that your cat can really sprint after it. You can also swing it in the air and get your cat to do those dramatic high jumps that often end in a 180 before they land perfectly on their feet again. Use the reach of the string when your cat is at its peak interest since it allows for maximum running and jumping, while making the bait a bit easier to catch since you lose a bit of control versus the solid stick. 

My cat loses interest in their toys quickly - how can I keep a toy interesting for longer?

A common issue for cat owners is that new toys quickly become boring. You probably have a drawer somewhere filled with toys that once were fun and captivating but then swiftly became mundane. This goes back to a previous point we made that cats are curious - you need to keep it interesting! A mouse that has been caught 1000 times is naturally not as exciting as a new mouse, but rest assured, there are things you can do to avoid endlessly buying new cat toys.

kittens playing with cat toy

Cycle your toys

Don’t play with the same toy day after day. Instead change the toy or bait often - sometimes multiple times per playtime session. This way you keep your cat guessing and keep their interest piqued.

Don’t keep your toys laying around

When you’re not actively playing with your cat, then hide away their baits. This makes the toys more desirable as they are a special treat rather than some old thing you can always play with. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Of course, don’t hide away all of their toys - there should be some hands-off toys that your cat can play with by themselves for when you’re not home or don’t have time, but keep a secret stash of interactive toys!

Switch it up with household items!

No need to always be buying new cat toys whenever you want to offer up some variety for your cats. Instead, find some fun household items and play with those in between playtime with furry mice toys and fresh feathers.

Add some catnip

You can use catnip to make a boring toy a bit more fun. Fill it up, rub it, spray it, whatever works for you, but a pinch of catnip can work wonders. Not all cats like it, but it’s definitely worth a try!

What toys should I get for my cat?

Cats are peculiar creatures with peculiar interests, so getting toys for them can be a challenge. That’s one of the reasons why we developed the Forever Stick.

The Forever Stick is the first modular and reusable cat teaser wand - providing you with all the variety that your cat needs. With the Forever Stick you can smoothly switch between having a string attached for those dramatic jumps, or attaching the bait directly to the end of the stick for the perfectly sneaky movements like hiding behind a table leg like a mouse. It also allows you to easily and quickly switch baits, so that you can keep your cat’s interest and have a high level of variety during playtime. By only needing a single cat teaser wand for all of your playing needs you no longer have to buy single use wands and can minimize waste and impact on our environment. You can buy feather and mouse refills for the Forever Stick, but you can also switch it up by attaching household items with the simple clasp included. If your cat loves hair ties more than feathers - no problems!

You should also have some toys lying around that your cat can play with while you’re not home or don’t have time to play just when they have the urge.
We have had good experiences with:

  • Ball tracks
  • Catnip-filled textile pouches
  • Plush toys for wrestling
  • Plastics springs
  • Feather balls

Try it and see what works for your cat!

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