Play is vitally important for cats, and probably in ways that as owners we have never considered – until now.
“It is a great way for the cat and owner to interact,” says Catherine-Mary Howard, Veterinary Scientific Support Manager at Royal Canin.
“But it also gives them exercise and fitness, and promotes their learning opportunities and provides them with cognitive stimulation.”
But why exactly is play important for fitness? “It helps to keep their muscles toned and engages them in mental stimulation. Cats going without enough exercise will be less likely to maintain a healthy body weight.
“Play also provides the perfect opportunity for the owner to spend quality time bonding with their cat. All in all, there is absolutely no reason not to encourage a pet cat to be playful and active.”
If the play session is going to be productive, you need, as an owner, to learn quickly which sorts of games interest them. Generally several short, play sessions of 10-15 minutes per day seem to work best, although starting with even shorter sessions may be necessary.
“Many cats find games which stimulate their strong, natural hunting instincts the most inviting,” says Catherine.
Here are some of her suggested games to play:
Toys on strings or ribbons
String toys can be as simple as a piece of ribbon or a toy mouse or feather attached to the end of a wand by some string. Always supervise pets when they are playing.
Ping pong balls
Some cats will enjoy following a bouncing ping pong ball under close supervision.
Many cats will enjoy playing with small mouse-shaped toys that resemble the type of prey that would naturally attract them, especially if they are brightly coloured or make a noise
When dealing with cats that love their food, why not try using a puzzle feeder? These clever devices can be filled with the cat’s normal dry food and they only deliver the food as the cat plays with them.
Catherine says that it is vital that cats are not left unsupervised with any toy that could be chewed or shredded, or any string or ribbon-type toys.
“Always put toys away out of a cat’s reach after a play session as some toys may present a hazard to the unsupervised pet,” she says. It is also important – especially if your cat stays indoors – to encourage them to move and play around the house.
“Seize every opportunity to utilise vertical space in the cat’s indoor living environment,” advises Catherine. “By providing features such as shelves, ropes, cat trees and climbing poles, vertical space can be enhanced, offering the cat vantage points, environmental complexity and the opportunity for active play behaviour. It also makes boredom much less likely.”
Another great way of encouraging your cat to move around more is to place their water, food and litter tray as far apart as possible. “This promotes activity in the form of walking and also will support the cat’s basic needs, as they do not like to eat, drink and toilet within close proximity,” says Catherine.
The correct nutrition is just as important when it comes to healthy living for every cat, as is exercise and play. When dealing with a cat that is struggling to maintain an ideal body condition, always seek advice from a veterinary surgeon.
“It may be that a light diet from the Royal Canin range is an appropriate choice for them, or they may need the nutritional support of a tailored, veterinary, weight-loss diet,” says Catherine. “When undergoing any form of significant weight loss, for their own health and safety, cats should always be monitored closely under the guidance of the team at their veterinary practice.”
Proud to be feeding generations of guide dogs
This winter, Royal Canin will be donating £1 to Guide Dogs for every promotional bag of Breed diet sold in participating pet shops across the UK.*
For more information, visit royalcanin.co.uk/guidedogs