Cats are natural hunters that need to develop skills from a young age through playing. When cats reach adulthood the activity of playing is a very important aspect because it allows them to burn energy that they accumulate simply from being inside. If you had a kitten that played a lot and now it’s an adult cat that doesn’t seem interested in playing you are not alone. This happens when cats become adults; they don’t engage easily in games and you really need to try hard to make them play. In some cases the adult cat doesn’t play with anything.
My cat Sophie used to play a lot but now that she is 4 years old and she doesn’t show much interest in playing with toys. Also, her playing is very short and gets bored easily after a couple of minutes. I discovered some tricks that might help you since they worked with my cat.
If you have tried all cat toys with your kitty
If you are reading this article I know you have tried almost all cat toys with your cat. Either cat toys that need our participation in the game or automatic interactive devices, the same happens: our cat doesn’t want to play or plays very little. When I shop on Amazon or Walmart I don’t have many options because I know my cat Sophie won’t engage with any of those toys. It’s frustrating because I want something new for my cat and I know she has already tried all the toys! Some of the toys she never liked and never played with them and the others toys have already served their purpose with my cat and she doesn’t care about them anymore.
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Why most toys don’t work for my cat (it might happen to yours too!)
The following are some of the examples of toys that don’t currently work for my cat and some of these scenarios maybe happen with your kitty as well:
Cat balls: My cat doesn’t play with balls because she can’t carry a ball in her mouth as a prey. Maybe if balls were small enough to fit in her mouth but the problem is that balls are made of hard plastic or rubber and sometimes she gets hit by them when bouncing around and she doesn’t like that. I found a temporary solution with balls made of foam but she started to stick her teeth in them to carry them and that was not safe.
Laser toys: My cat chases the laser dot for a little bit but she stops doing it because she can’t reach the “prey” and becomes frustrated. She is the type of cat that needs a fast reward, otherwise, she gives up easily. Also, after a while she discovered that somehow that light came from my hand. I don’t know if this has ever happened to you with your cat but after she realized this she looked more at my hand than at the laser dot.
Mice toys: Sophie really likes playing with mice toys and she has tried every type, materials and size. But now she already knows them all and doesn’t play with them. But I have found some tricks to make her play with some of them. I highly recommend mice with rattling noise, this really works with my kitty. Keep reading to learn how to make your cat engage when playing with mice toys.
Automatic toys: An excellent toy was the SmartyKat Hot Pursuit because my cat played a lot with it. I had to put it away from my cat for a couple of days to keep my cat interested in it and it worked. She played for months with this toy but now she just sits next to it in hunting posture but never touches the feather or stick. Other toys such as the Smartykat String Fling or the Pawaboo pet teasing toy weren’t such a success. Most automatic toys work for a day up to a week and then the cat stops playing, the exception is the Smartykat Hot Pursuit.
The SmartyKat is a good automatic toy
Catnip stuffed toys: I don’t let my cat play with catnip stuffed toys anymore since I discovered that catnip causes my cat to urinate outside the litter box. My cat never really played a lot with catnip stuffed toys anyway but now I don’t have any catnip at home. If catnip doesn’t make your cat urinate outside the litter box I recommend using catnip stuffed toys because cats play a lot with them, biting them and throwing them away. Try the Smartykat catnip stuffed toys with your kitty.
Possible causes of cats not interested in playing
Other than a cat becoming adult and losing interest in playing a lot, there are some reasons that could be the cause of this.
Sometimes the way we play with the cat is the problem. Our posture could be threatening to our kitty and that’s why they don’t play. For example, walking fast towards the cat in order to throw a toy or play could scare it. When playing with the cat we usually raise our arms holding and moving a toy and this could be a body language of aggression to the cat and it may not play but run away from you. Also, standing up in a way that the cat doesn’t have an exit could also create a problem during the game. This usually happens with rescued cats that have suffered negligence or aggression when being young.
The solution is trying to hide your body when showing the toy to your cat. For example, get behind the couch or similar to show the toy so your cat only sees the toy and not your body. Get your cat inside the cat house, box or tunnel and start playing while your kitty is inside of it.
My cat playing with a mouse while being inside a tunnel
The cat’s personality
Some cats need a recreation of real hunting scenarios to engage in games. This involves creating a challenging situation for the cat to hide and pounce just as done in the wild. This means that the cat won’t just play with toys or strings directly but will prefer a hunting and chasing activity only if it triggers its instincts. This is the type of cat that is always trying to sneak outside through the door and its spirit is of an outdoor cat.
Cats learn from bad experiences with just one event. If something bad happens to the cat, the feline will associate a particular object or place to this bad event and will avoid contact with them absolutely, sometimes, forever. This is a natural and very necessary instinct that allows them to adapt to their environment to survive. If you play with your cat and during the game a toy hits its head or the cat gets trapped or its claws get hooked immobilizing its movements, the cat will never play with that particular toy. If this happens with strings the cat won’t play with any string, if happens with a ball, all balls with be rejected, etc.
What works with the most indifferent cat
This is the best bet to make your cat play:
Feathers trigger the cat’s hunting instinct because they represent a bird. If you choose a string cat toy pick the one with natural feathers. My cat plays just with any feather. Sometimes I find a feather in our yard and I throw it and my cat plays with it.
Sophie playing with a feather
Recreate hunting games
Recreate a hunting scenario for your cat. What I usually do is I hide behind a wall next to the door and I show my cat’s favorite toy in hiding-like position just as it would do in the wild. The cat will pounce and trap the toy. Another game is putting a rattling mouse or the cat’s favorite object inside a hole where the cat needs to scoop and get it out. Do it in several hiding spots around the house and you will have your kitty playing for a long time. When doing any of these games make sure to attach the toy to a string if it doesn’t come with it. The cat won’t play directly with the string, the string will serve the purpose of moving the toy while being inside a hole without involving your hand. This will avoid your hand getting all scratched and will allow you to move the toy as if it has life on its own like a natural prey. All you need is applying some ingenuity and think like a cat that wants to hunt.
Make any object a toy
This may sound odd but sometimes I get my cat playing a lot just with cat-unrelated objects. For example, when I open a juice or almond milk container I throw the sealing plastic to my cat and she plays with it. I also figured that my cat loves small balls made with chocolate wraps. I was once eating a chocolate and made a small ball with the shiny green wrap and my kitty loved playing with it. What I did was buying a new package of these chocolates just to make more balls since my kitty loved playing with this so much. Try with different objects, there’s no limit. As long as it doesn’t mean a hazard to your kitty you can use pretty much anything to get your cat playing.
The favorite string of my cat Sophie so far it’s been a string that I made with a piece of paper twist handle (those of paper carry bags) attached to a tennis shoes lace. I can’t believe how much my cat loves this thing lol. I put a picture of the toy and a video of my cat playing with this.
Sophie playing with a DIY String
If your cat doesn’t play much with any type cat toy or object maybe you can try with different options that may work for your kitty.
Walk your cat
Believe it or not, you can walk your cat just as a dog. You need to get a special cat harness for this. It won’t be easy in the beginning and most likely your cat will reject the harness. What happened with my cat Sophie is that I put the harness in her body but when I tried to walk her outside she just put her body sort of flat on the floor and wouldn’t move a muscle. It took a week for her to slowly walk with the harness and in the beginning she wouldn’t walk much. But after 3 weeks she was walking normally just like a dog. This could be a good option to provide your cat activity in a safe way. This is a photo of my cat walking with the harness in the beginning.
Make it work for its food
You can use a cat dispensing toy or any object you can think of that could serve this purpose. You can also hide its food in different places in the house. The idea is making your cat work for its food. This way you will increase the cat’s activity level which is good if your cat is not easily motivated to play.
Get another cat
This is a more extreme solution but sometimes the cat just feels lonely and needs a playmate to feel encouraged to play. If you can afford this option I highly recommend in getting another cat. Make sure to get advice from an animal behaviorist before doing this, providing all the information about your cat so you will find the best playing partner for your kitty. If you can’t afford an animal behaviorist, there are good forums where you can ask for free. By choosing the right playmate you can avoid conflict between cats in the future.
Get a nice cat condo
Cats love playing while being up high and a nice cat condo or cat tree provides this elevation and fun for your kitty. Sometimes the cat just needs to be able to jump up and down to play and engage in games. The more levels and houses the condo has, the more energy your cat will spend playing in it. The activity will increase even more if your cat has a playmate, either you or another cat.
A nice fun cat condo will ensure that your feline friend will have at least 30 minutes of activity which is what the cat needs to eliminate boredom, prevents the cat from sleeping too much or avoids depression and stress.
If your kitty is picky when it comes to playing don’t give up. Try different things and apply your ingenuity as much as you can, it’s worth it and your cat will appreciate it.