Our cats are yoga masters, and naturally athletic. They’re but one paw-step away from life on the wild side, where missing a mouse meant an empty tummy. Cats don’t have to hunt for a living any more, but the same skills needed for stalking and pouncing translate into play.
Kittens instinctively play as a way to hone adult cat behaviors and skills, and because play just feels good! Cat play peaks at about 12 to 14 weeks of age, and falls off as felines become adults.
Indoor cats live longer and stay healthier, but since they don’t worry about filling the bowl, they can get lazy. Kitty couch potatoes turn into tubby tabbies when the most exercise they get is a stroll from bed to the bowl. That’s unhealthy for cats—and for their owners. Here are a few of the benefits of playful cat.
Reduces Tubby Tabbies
Fat cats just aren’t healthy. Extra weight can lead to diabetes, arthritis, and a nasty condition called fatty liver disease that can kill. Play is great feline aerobics that keeps muscles toned and cats slim.
Engages The Brain
Practicing all the stalk, pounce, bite and play-kill behaviors helps cats stay healthy emotionally. It also works the feline brain. That keeps cats young and can help prevent feline senility that can lead to hit-or-miss bathroom behaviors.
Most aging cats develop arthritis, but you’d never know it because they don’t complain. Instead, arthritic cats sleep more, hide, and stop interacting as much with their owners. When joints aren’t used, they hurt worse. So playing with cats not only can reduce weight that can aggravate the joints, it keeps creaky joints mobile and less painful. Play is an easy and free therapy owners can do at home.
Offers A Legal Outlet
High energy cats, especially youngsters, have no off-switch and can turn your ankles into moving targets. Play fighting with claws and teeth hurts, and can damage furniture. Cats indulge in gravity experiments, when the cat paw-taps breakables onto the floor. Turning cat play into structured fun gives them a legal outlet for claws and teeth, while keeping your valuables (and skin!) safe.
Creates Lasting Bonds
Cats rarely play with anyone they don’t trust and like. So playing with your cat can help you boost the love you feel for each other. Play works great to boost the confidence of shy cats, and to cool the jets of bully cats, so it also can smooth inter-cat relationships.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.