How often should I play with my cat?

Cat play is food for the mind. Play with your cat as much as you want to. She will tell you when she has had enough. The limiter on the amount of play normally comes from the human. At a minimum, I would suggest three sessions of 15 minutes a day.

This is such an important question I think. Firstly it presupposes that we must play with our cat, which is true. Secondly, I am convinced that most cat owners (and I place myself in this category with regret) do not play with their cat enough.

I’m dictating this article and my cat, Gabriel, is on my lap (see photo). It is 5:50 AM in the morning. Dawn is breaking. As I put my microphone on my head the wired connection to the computer excited Gabs. He wanted to play with it. He wanted to bite it. And when I put my hand towards him to remove the cable from his mouth he wanted to bite my hand. Fine. This is all completely normal for a domestic cat. He wants to hunt, bite, chew and express all these inner natural desires. It is that time of day: dawn, the crepuscular desires are near the surface and ready to be expressed. I stopped dictating and played with him for ten minutes.

He needs to do this to feel well. We know that domestic cats are hardwired as predators to hunt and kill. Perhaps it is the most important emotional aspect of their lives. It cannot be ignored. Outdoor cats express this every day on their wanderings but it goes without saying that when a cat is confined to either full-time indoor living or to a garden enclosure there has to be a substitute which is play.

I don’t think you can overdo play with your cat. He will tell you when he’s had enough. So in a way the question in the title is redundant. You just play with him as much as possible. The limit on the amount of play will normally come from the person.

Cat play is very important

I suggested that there should be three play sessions of about 15 minutes every day. But it could be more. I wonder whether we as cat owners underestimate this element of cat caretaking. It is something that can easily be overlooked because cats are self-contained and supposedly independent. If there is nothing to challenge them, nothing to chase and chew on, they snooze which is why a lot of the time you see this misconception about domestic cat sleeping for incredibly long times.

I don’t think domestic cats do sleep for incredibly long times if they are given sufficient stimulation. Snoozing is a defence mechanism. It’s a way of killing time when there are no challenges. There’s more to playing with your cat than satisfying your cat’s natural desires. It’s a form of exercise which may help your cat to lose weight if he needs to. And as an excellent form of interaction with your cat it helps with bonding and socialization.

If your cat is a little less than optimally socialized, playing with your cat will help socialize him. He’ll forget about his anxiety being around a person because he’s focused on playing. He’ll get used to the person in the process. It’s a win-win situation. And if your cat is troublesomely aggressive, play and lots of it will probably calm him.

When I adopted my semi-feral cat he was almost completely unsocialized. I spent days playing with him. Quite quickly he settled down on my lap. Days earlier he was a frightened kitten hiding under the sideboard all day.

Get plenty of cat toys. Make them if you want to. And example is the bug jar cat toy. Homemade cat toys are as good as anything you can buy commercially. Litter your house with them! Toys and cat scratching boards should be a major feature of a cat owner’s household. If they are impregnated with catnip so much the better because it draws in domestic cats and normally excites them.

The cat tease
The Cat Tease – Photograph by Michael at PoC

The cat tease is underrated. This is the old fashioned feather on a stick. You can make them in different sizes with different objects on the end. Another useful type of cat toy is one that makes a noise. Cats are very sharp when it comes to noises and sounds. This is also part of their hunting attributes. A squeaky toy of some sort can catch their attention, make them think and get involved.

There is an advantage to a two cat household provided the cats get along; play. They can play with each other. I guess this takes some of the responsibility from the owner.

Cats playing
Photo credit: Flickr User: Malingering

Playing with your cat feeds his mind and nourishes his emotions and it is just as important as providing him with high-quality food. Play is food for the mind.

3 thoughts on “How often should I play with my cat?”

  1. My Hazelnut used to leap on my hand as a kitten. She’d pretend it was a snake and that she was wary of it, and then she’d leap with a roar like a lioness. Maybe kittens like to feel large and tough, like little kids playing cops and robbers.

    I’d dangle my hand in front of her and tease her. Did she learn to bite and scratch playfully, and whenever she didn’t get her way? Yes. Do I mind? No.

    If you have feral cats taken right off the streets like I do, you learn to overlook little scratches. I also let my Amiga bite my fingers whenever she’s overstimulated by my petting.

    Playing with your cat is very important, but you can’t leave out shoelaces unsupervised. The cat I used to have had one tangled around his neck. Luckily, I was home and took it off while he tried to kill me repeatedly, with no success.

  2. Guilty as charged!! Since there are three, we let them play with each other too much. Not as if the house doesn’t have a gazillion toys for them alteady, they like to hug and cuddle a lot both with us and each other. The bug jar sounds interesting. What is the container made of, I’m thinking not glass.

    • I am guilty as charged too. But I do play quite a bit but not enough. I think the bug jar is glass – thick glass. I looks neat. Something to occupy a cat’s mind for a while. And a nice use for a bug!


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