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  • Writer's pictureJen Van de Kieft

Cat doesn't play? Try these strategies.

Tips for bringing your cat’s prey drive to the surface:

  • Schedule a time of day for play sessions and stick with it. Ideally, it should occur before a meal which would be the natural course of things in the wild. If not provide a healthy treat after the session;

  • Get a good wand toy. I like the ones that are retractable, lightweight, have nylon string and feel great to wave around. I often recommend the Depet's brand on Amazon. It comes with a bunch of toys that can be alternated.

  • Start by letting your cat watch the toy move around. Make sure the toy moves out of the cat’s sight to peak interest, maybe even under a towel so he can see movement;

  • Let your cat easily grab the toy at first, then increase the level of difficulty as his interest heightens;

  • Alternate toys every few days to keep the game exciting, and to find ones that your cat is most interested in. In the wild, cats hunt mice, birds, lizards and snakes.Feather toys are often recommended, but I find cats like caterpillar shaped toys and mice with long tails the best.

  • To increase interest in the toy, use odor enrichment such as catnip or silver vine to rub on it;

  • When your cat chases the toy, provide encouragement like saying “good job” or a provide a treat, depending on what works for your cat. My cat enjoys a brief head rub when he fetches a toy and returns it to my feet.

  • If you have multiple cats, you may need to separate them as some cats do not want to play in front of the others, particularly if he is the more timid cat. Playing will increase his confidence, and eventually you can try playing with the cats together, though this may take some time. I always recommend having a wand toy for each cat so they are not in competition for the toys;

  • Don’t give up. The prey drive is there and this type of enrichment is essential for cats being able to act out natural behaviors.

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