Prey sequence play
The natural hunting sequence of the cat is stare > stalk/chase > pounce/grab > kill bite. This is how you should structure your playtime with your cat. Try to play separately with each cat, to avoid competition over toys. You will want to use wand toys. CLICK HERE for a list of wand toys available on Amazon. Playing with cats is a very important exercise in building trust and bonding with them. In the behavior world, we actually refer to it as “play therapy” whenever we are using it as a tool to improve trust and confidence with people.
The hunting style of the cat may depend upon whether the cat is hungry or not. If the cat has eaten recently, she may be only mildly interested in hunting. Cats are opportunistic hunters, meaning they will go after prey that crosses their path, even if they have just eaten. However, they may play with it just a bit, only half interested in it. A hungry cat is a motivated cat, and cats who have a belly to fill will be more focused hunters and will kill their prey right away, in order to consume it. This means that your cat may be less interested in playing with you after eating. Playtime is best conducted when your cat is hungry – right before a scheduled mealtime. Another factor to consider is that cats may lose interest in the toy mid-play, so you may need to switch toys. One study showed that cats had renewed interest in playing when the type, or even color, of the toy was changed during a play session. Cats can more easily distinguish between blues, violets, and greens, but cannot see colors at the red end of the spectrum very well at all. Keep this in mind when you are selecting cat toys that have colors.
The best types of wand toys are ones that are prey-like, in that they resemble the typical prey that a cat would predate. Examples include feathers (bird-like), mouse, and fabric strip (snake/tail-like). Attachments that are too bulky would not naturally be something a cat would typically hunt, so while they may appeal to kittens, they don’t typically do the trick for adults.
After playtime, ALWAYS offer the cat a little bit of food or a treat. This is important for letting them to complete the prey sequence and feel satisfied. If you are playing with a laser, be sure to watch to make sure the cat doesn’t seem frustrated. Some cats become frustrated because they cannot catch the red dot. It is best to either play with a wand toy after you do the laser, or you can make the laser land on a bowl of food or a puzzle toy at the end. Finally, put away all wand toys in a safe location that is inaccessible to all cats. This is both for safety and to prevent habituation to the toy, which leads to boredom.