Cat Play Reduces Your Cat’s Anxiety And Yours

If you are working from home, you are most likely finding yourself with more time to spend with your cat. However, both you and your cat may be feeling stressed due to the changes in schedule and the mood of the household. Let’s look at ways to help with both.

Interactive cat play “therapy” will reduce your cat’s anxiety stemming from the coronavirus disruptions.

Cat Play With A Fishing Pole Toy

For interactive cat play, you want a fishing pole type toy. This makes you part of the game! This is different from throwing a bunch of solo toys on the floor that you have sitting in a big basket. With a solo toy, the cat must be both predator and prey, and that isn’t fun for your cat.

For a beneficial interactive cat play session, start with triggering your cat’s prey drive, and the way to trigger it is to move the toy like prey. Think of it as if you are playing “hide and seek” with your cat. Alternate fast and slow, high and low, hide behind furniture and so forth. Act like prey!

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Allow Your Cat To Catch The “Prey”

An extremely important rule of interactive cat play as “therapy” has to do with success. For play “therapy” to be beneficial, your cat needs to have multiple captures. When you are interactively playing with your cat, the game isn’t about how long you can keep the toy away from the cat, it’s about how rewarding the play session is for the cat – and it is the capture that provides the reward.

For the “therapy” to be beneficial, the cat needs to have multiple captures. It can’t be too much of a challenge and you want your cat to be able to grab the toy in her mouth or in her paws. Here is where the feeling of satisfaction comes in, and this will get your cat’s “feel-good” chemicals flowing, which will relieve the anxiety. And guess what – this will be fun for both you and your cat, which will be a release for both of you.

Mimicking The Prey Is Important

When you are ready for the session to come to an end, don’t abruptly end and walk away. Mimic prey realistically! Slowly wind down the movements of the toy at the end of the fishing pole, almost as if the “prey” is getting tired or has been injured. Simulate the toy getting slower and eventually the prey “dies,” and now the cat will start to relax and feel as if she has accomplished a grand, final capture. Finish the game with a really yummy treat that you know your cat likes. Since cat play therapy simulates a hunt, it is especially rewarding for the cat to enjoy a “feast” after the capture, and this is what creates more positive associations with this new stay at home world we find ourselves in due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Why Fishing Pole Toys Are Ideal For Cat Play and Laser Pointers ARE NOT

I would like to note that this is the problem with the laser pointer. The whole point of cat play therapy is to allow your cat to have multiple captures. It’s the captures that create the positive associations, satisfaction and release of tension for the cat. I do not recommend using a laser pointer to play.  My advice is to find some fishing pole toys that your cat likes.

More Cat Play Tips

You can’t play with your cat all day when you are working from home, so here are some other tips. Set up some interactive activity toys for your cat to use during the day. This way, your cat plays more during the day, and this allows her to have the feeling of a capture. Puzzle feeders left out during the day will break up your cat’s daytime sleeping. We want your cat to be busy as a stress reliever. Puzzle feeders are a form of environmental enrichment that plays a huge role in releasing stress. There must be enough mental and physical stimulation, so your cat does not sit around thinking about her own fear and anxiety. Puzzle feeders can help keep a cat active and using her brain in a way that focuses more on accomplishing a task than falling victim to frustration. When you set up toys, choose ones that will stimulate and occupy your cat’s brain. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, even a ball inside an empty tissue box can be a fun and satisfying challenge.

Read Rachel’s book on cat behavior: 

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Rachel S. Geller, Ed.D., is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and a Cat Behavior and Retention Specialist through the Humane Society of the United States and a Certified Pet Chaplain through the Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education. Based in the Boston area, she advises clients both locally and throughout the country on how to resolve their cats’ behavioral and emotional problems, always with the goal of creating permanently harmonious relationships between cats and their owners. Whether the cat in question is avoiding the litterbox, acting hostile toward another cat in the same household, having separation anxiety, or scratching the furniture, or whether you just want some advice on how to choose the perfect cat for your household and integrate your new cat successfully into your family, Rachel has easy-to-implement solutions and answers based on her lifelong understanding of cats and their behavior.