Although cats generally have different play styles than their canine counterparts, toys are as much a necessity for cats as they are for dogs. Toys help fight boredom and give cats an outlet for their instinctive prey-chasing behaviors plus when you are the one moving the toy around while your cat fishes for it, chases it, or jumps for it, playtime becomes a bonding experience for both of you.
The things that are usually the most attractive to cats are often the very things that are the most dangerous. Make sure you cat-proof your home by removing string, ribbon, yarn, rubber bands, paper clips, pins, needles, dental floss and anything else that can be ingested.
Avoid or alter any toys that aren't "cat proof" by removing ribbons, feathers, strings, eyes, or any other small parts that can be chewed and ingested.
Soft toys should be machine washable. Look for stuffed toys that are labeled as safe for kids under 3 years old and that don't contain any dangerous fillings such as nutshells, and polystyrene beads.
- Round plastic shower curtain rings, which are fun either as a single ring to bat around, hide, or carry, or when linked together and hung in an enticing spot.
- Plastic balls, with or without bells inside.
- Ping-Pong balls and plastic practice gold balls with holes to help cats carry them. Try putting one in a dry bathtub, as a captive ball is much more fun than one that escapes under the sofa.
- Paper bags with the handles removed are good for pouncing, hiding, and interactive play as are cardboard boxes.
- Sisal wrapped toys are attractive to cats who don't really like soft toys.
- Empty cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towels can be made even more fun if you start to unwind a little bit of the material before you give it to them.
- Soft stuffed animals are good for several purposes. For some cats, the stuffed animal should be small enough to carry around. For cats who want to wrestle with the toy, it should be about the same size as the cat. Toys with legs and a tail seem to be especially enticing to cats.
- Cardboard boxes, especially those that are a little too small for your cat to fit into.
- Catnip filled soft toys, which cats like to kick, carry and rub. Don't worry, catnip is not addictive and is perfectly safe for cats to roll in, rub in and eat.
- Plain catnip can be crushed and sprinkled on the carpet. Sometimes the catnip oils will remain in the carpet and even though you can't see it, your cat can usually still smell it.
- Don't bother with catnip sprays. They aren't usually powerful enough to attract a cat.
Keep in mind that not all cats are affected by catnip and some may even become overstimulated to the point of aggressive play and some just become relaxed.
Kittens under 6 months old seem to be immune to the effects of catnip.
Get the Most out of Toys!
- Rotate your cat's toys weekly by making only a few available at a time. Keep a variety of types easily accessible. If your cat has a favorite that she loves to cuddle with, you may want to leave that one out all the time.
- Provide toys that offer a variety of uses-at least one toys to carry, one to wrestle with, one to roll, and one to "baby".
- Hide and seek is a fun game for cats. "Found" toys are often much more attractive than a toy which is obviously introduced.
- Many of your cat's toys should be interactive. Interactive play is very important for your cat because she needs active "people time" and such play also enhances the bond between you and your pet. Cats generally engage in three types of play-fishing, flying and chasing and all three types are much more fun when you are part of them.
Now go and have some quality bonding time with your cat.
We all like to be praised rather than punished...Right? Well, the same goes for your cat or dog and that is the theory behind Positive Reinforcement Training.
What is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive Reinforcement is the act of giving your cat something nice or rewarding IMMEDIATELY after she does something you want her to do. By rewarding that behavior immediately she is more likely to repeat that same behavior in the future.
Positive Reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools you can use to shape or change your cat's behavior because it's better and easier to teach your pet what she should do instead of trying to teach her what she shouldn't do.
Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement. The reward has to be given within seconds or your cat may not associate it with the correct action.
Example: When your cat uses the scratching post, you can throw a piece of dry food at her to chase as a reward. BUT, if you throw the food after she stopped scratching the post and is walking away, she might think that she's being rewarded for walking away.
Keep in mind that CONSISTENCY IS KEY. Everyone is the home should reward the same behavior, the same way.
Tools for Positive Reinforcement Training
Tools for Positive Reinforcement Training can be anything from food, praise, petting or a favorite toy or game. When your cat is first learning a new behavior, such as using a scratching post instead of your couch, she should be rewarded every time you see her using the scratching post. Once you see that she is doing the behavior on a regular basis you can slowly give less treats...You can go from giving a treat every time then slowly give every few times...basically, keep her guessing and always continue to praise her even when you are not using treats anymore. Your cat will eventually learn that if she still offers the desired behavior she will eventually get what she wants...your praise and the occasional treat.
Many cats love to play and playing helps your cat develop physically and mentally. Providing the right play outlets can also reduce unwanted behaviors. A bored cat is more likely to misbehave.
Never underestimate the power of play. Not only is is great exercise for your cat but a great bonding experience for both of you.