How to play with a senior cat

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As kittens, they have bundles of energy. Little balls of fur zipping around the place at lightning speed. But as cats get older, they naturally become less energetic, less mobile, and a lot more sleepy!  

This reduction in activity can cause all sorts of issues – from joint stiffness to a decline in the cognitive functions. One way to slow this down? Playing. It’s exercise for the body and the mind, and there are calmer, gentler ways to play with an older cat. We explore them here…  

How important is playtime for an older cat? 

You might be thinking that your feline is perfectly happy snoozing the day away, so why do you need to encourage playtime? Why not just let them be? Well, for a number of reasons, actually. Here are some of the benefits feline playtime will bring…  

  • It’ll keep your cat physically fit for longer, at a healthier weight  
  • Your cat will experience better mobility and stamina  
  • It helps to keep the mind young, ensuring your feline is active mentally and refreshing its ‘lust for life’  
  • It’ll reinforce the bond between you and your pet, as you’re spending quality time together  

Playtime ideas for an older cat

Not sure where to start? Fear not, here are some tips to get you and your feline started… 

1. Use food as a prompt 

Cats love their food, so games that incorporate their favourite treats are a good way to get yours up and about. Hide their favourite snacks in different areas of the house, and see if your feline can sniff them out. You can pick up food puzzle games at any decent pet shop. Alternatively, try and make one yourself! Simply cut off one side of a cardboard box, and stick a few toilet roll cores on top. Place a snack inside of each, and your feline will have to work out how to get their cat candy prize.   

2. Try and reintroduce catnip  

Catnip is a member of the mint family, and cats go crazy for it. Why? The catnip plant contains an oil known as nepetalactone. One sniff, and special receptors in the brain release pheromones, a chemical substance that prompts a sense of euphoria in our feline friends. Introduce a catnip toy to your pet and, chances are, it’ll reawaken their desire to play.  

3. Get back to basics 

Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to spend money on lots of new things. Some cats would choose the texture of a paper bag or a cardboard box over a techy toy any day of the week. Dig out wrapping paper, newspapers and boxes watch your cat explore and hide. Then roll the paper into balls and let your feline chase them down! 

4Embrace your cat’s natural instincts  

Remember when your feline was tiny, and would swipe at your toes as you passed by, or pounce on you from behind the sofa?! These are hunting instincts, and they don’t go away – even as a feline ages. Try and evoke the same behaviours by dragging a toy along the ground slowly, and then use sharp, fast movements to pull it away as your cat advances (in the same way a mouse might run away).   

5. Find happiness in heights! 

Cats loving being high up, watching the world from afar and keeping an eye out for mice and birds below them. Try perching a treat on a (not-too-high) vantage point, such as a low branch, or a footstool. Jumping down can cause stress on the joints, though, so be sure to keep the height fairly low and only practice this type of play if your cat is nice and agile, as it could make stiff kitties worse.  

Some final tips  
In conclusion, whatever playtime looks like for your senior cat, it’s a positive way of passing the time. One that’ll keep your furry companion fit, flexible and happy. And trust us, your bond will be stronger than ever with these extra efforts! Here are some final takeaways… 

  • Take your cat’s lead when it comes to playtime. If they’re not in the mood, don’t force it 
  • Keep things interesting by changing it up! For instance, put certain toys away and only bring them out now and again. It makes things more exciting for your pet 
  • Avoid any cat games that require jumping if your feline is suffering from joint stiffness 
  • Keep an eye on things – if your cat really likes a particular toy, there’s a chance of them going OTT and getting their claws stuck!  

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