Saturday, June 4, 2011

Games Sparky Plays

To Sparky, everything is a toy - bottle caps, cardboard boxes, slippers, paper towel rolls, and/or any of his fellow housemate cats.  Sparky's a kitten, so he has boundless energy.  Have you ever watched kids tear around a kitchen after dinner?  Somehow six bites of chicken, one 'no-thank-you bite' of carrots and a piece of bread sends a child into hyper drive.  Kittens (and puppies) are like this all the time.  While it's not at all exhausting for them, it can be very tiring for any of their older animal housemates.  How can we find more interesting 'toys' for our kittens than their unwilling feline friends?

This week's idea involves you as the owner (or perhaps your kids).  Cats and dogs are smarter than we think they are, and they get in trouble when they're bored.  If we devote just five minutes a day to playing with our cats, they'll look forward to this session which will relieve some of the frustration caused by boredom.  This can be anything from swishing a 'bird' on a string toy in front of your cat to winding up a mechanical toy to throwing balled up pieces of paper to playing "chase the dot" with a laser pointer.  (If you play the laser game, be aware of possible side effects.  After a play session, my sister-in-law's cat will spend the next twenty minutes staring at the last spot on the wall where he saw the red dot!) 

For the young cat like Sparky, these sessions expel some frantic energy.  For the plump cat like Maude, play time gives a little much-needed exercise and stretching of the muscles.  For a shy cat like Violet, this provides vital one-on-one time with you, her loving owner.  If one toy doesn't interest your cat, try another.  One of my cats loves feathers on a string.  Another loves toys with bells.  (I put the toys away between sessions so they're always fresh and exciting.  Also, every time I open that drawer, I'm instantly joined by my eager feline friends - a great way to find them in a pinch.)  If one of your cats dominates play time, have a play session with your other cat(s) in another room while that cat is distracted with food or another toy.

In addition to the joy of laughing at his/her acrobatics, actively playing with your cat once a day gives you the benefit of 'touching base' with your cat once a day.  Observing kitty will help you notice if she's less active than usual or limping on a back leg or losing fur on her belly.  Waking up to play with your cat is a great way to start your day, and unwinding with a play session before bed can help all of the day's frustrations to evaporate.  Our cats think we're here to take care of them, but really, we know they take care of us.

Kelley Wagner, C.V.T.

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