Ingrid Johnson, CCBC on February 22, 2013
Our cats may seem like pampered indoor housecats, but on the inside they are still fierce predators! The greatest thrill for a cat is what is referred to as the “completion of the sequence of the kill.”
It is important when we are playing with our cats that we remember this sequence and try to mimic it the best we can. Whether playing with an individual toy or engaging in interactive play with you, it is important to allow them to capture their prey. Many people think it is funny to not let the cat catch the toy; this is actually very frustrating and quite frankly, not nice. If you play using a laser light toy, give your cat a tangible object to capture at the end of the play session, feed them a meal or offer treats, something that says you caught it!
When cats play they do not have to be flying through the air to be engaged and having a good time. Simply focus and eye contact on a toy, with ears perked up and erect tells you that your cat is engaged. (See photo)
Be sure to keep the toy moving away from your cat as most prey do not run towards their predators and bop them on the head! It is remarkable how many people stick the toy right in a cats face and wonder why they are not interested. Move the object in a tantalizing motion; let it be still, quiver, then bolt, as that is how prey moves.
Let your cat pounce on it a few times and then engage them in the stalk and chase again. Despite what great hunters they are, they do not always catch and kill their prey on the first try. Cats also like to torture the poor creature a little bit, letting it go and then recapturing it.
Try different toys! Cats are extremely prey specific; so much so that they will actually hunt the exact species of mouse or bird their mothers taught them to hunt if given the opportunity. If they do not play with one thing continue to try other toys and do not lose hope. Some cats enjoy feathers, others prefer tiny delicate lure objects, and others enjoy a big stuffed animal type toy. If you have multiple cats you will likely have multiple preferences.
Finally, end every play session with a satisfying kill!
Ingrid Johnson, CCBC
Certified Cat Behavior Consultant