Any cat owner knows that while felines might not be as high maintenance as dogs, they still require a lot of attention and playtime to be happy. I learned the hard way that they don’t much care if you’re tired or not in the mood when they want to play. Simply petting them won’t be enough.
You have to keep your cat active and engaged not just for its entertainment but also to protect it from common diseases. Luckily, most cats are easily entertained (we all know their affinity for bags), so you don’t have to make a huge effort to play with them. Here are 10 games to play with your cat that they’ll love!
1. Hunt the Crumpled Paper
Have you ever noticed how your cat comes running when they hear paper crumpling or packaging crinkling? Yup, they’re instantly attracted to the sound. Take advantage of that and slowly crumple a piece of paper in front of your cat. That will get their attention.
Then, what I do to get them interested in chasing it around the house is I pretend to throw it but don’t (you know what I’m talking about) a couple of times. By that time, both of my cats are just dying to chase something so I throw the paper and watch them go.
Depending on their mood, they might start to chase the paper around the house without me having to do anything, or they might wait for me to throw it again. Either way, fun times for everyone involved. Make sure it doesn’t swallow the paper though if you have an overenthusiastic cat.
2. Hunt the Darn Light
Cats are suckers for light reflections around the house. At our house, we even start playing this game accidentally when I use the hand mirror and my cats go crazy for it. You can use a lot of things to create a light reflection that your cats can chase, from mirrors to watches or screens. The benefit of this game for you is that you don’t even have to move. Just bounce the light onto the floor, wall, or any other surface you can find.
I would advise against lasers since they’re not that great for cats. Plus, in my experience, lasers frustrate cats the most and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do. To this end, after you’re done playing with light sources, take a few minutes to play with a tangible toy so as not to frustrate your furry buddy.
3. Fetch the Mouse
Now, you can play fetch with pretty much anything. But in my experience colorful mice with feathers on the end work best like the Savvy Tabby Furry Mouse. Also, this might not work with all cats because I know some are not at all interested in playing fetch, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. To entice the cat to bring the toy back to you, you can greet it with a treat (or even a pat).
Eventually, they’ll learn that they’re rewarded if they fetch the toy. If they don’t, you’ll have to go get it then throw it again. Just make sure that you have enough space to throw the toy (or whatever else you want to throw) around without your cat having to retrieve it from behind furniture or walk just two steps to get it. You might also see some spectacular leaps if space allows it.
4. Hide and Seek
As silly as it may sound to play hide and seek with your cat (not for us overly attached cat owners), your kitty will love this. Hide anywhere around the house where your cat has to look for you but will eventually find you (such as behind the curtain) and allow them to search. Depending on where you’ve chosen to hide, every now and then, you can try to make a sound or call their name (although some cats couldn’t care less when owners do that).
You might be surprised to find out that your cat is quite sneaky and can identify where you are without you even noticing. However, as much as you’re tempted, don’t turn this into a hunting game. Cats have to be discouraged from hunting people’s hands or feet. Gentle bites might be a sign of affection but aggressive ones are definitely not. If you think this is entertaining and cute when they’re kittens, wait until they grow and start hunting you around the house. Or better yet, until your friend starts screaming and begging you to take the cat off of him (true story).
5. Go Fish
No, I’m not suggesting you play a card game with your cat (although I’m pretty sure you can train a cat to do that too). Instead try the Purrfect Pouncer Toy or fashion one out of a stick, a string, and some colorful feathers. No matter how many toys I buy for my cats, they will still love their rod the most. I don’t know why but I’m not going to question it either.
All I know is that dangling that rod in front of them gets them super excited. Sometimes, all it takes is moving it from one side to the other while your cat lounges in the middle of the room. Other times, it’s fun to run around the house with the rod behind you to get the cat moving. Another option is to toss the feathers over a doorway and hide on the other side of the door, slowly dragging the feathers toward you until the cat does a giant leap to catch them. This enables their hunting instinct.
6. Hide in the Box/Bag
Can a cat even be called a cat if it doesn’t immediately get into any empty box or bag it can find? I think not. You might be surprised to find out you can turn even this mundane activity into a fun game for your kitty. Allow the cat to settle in (that shouldn’t take long) and then start slowly poking at the sides of it or gently scratching against it to get your cat to react.
You’re in no danger of getting scratched and the cat can also take advantage of this to satisfy that craving for scratching something. Have I mentioned how easily entertained cats are?
7. Solve the Puzzle
Again, depending on the budget you have, you can buy the interactive Kong Active Maze Crazepuzzle toy for your cat or fashion one yourself from an empty box that you cut some holes into and a few of your cat’s favorite toys and treats. Puzzle toys work to stimulate your cat not just physically but also mentally. They keep it engaged and active.
Whether you buy one or make one yourself, you might have to spend some time getting the cat accustomed to it. My cats didn’t pay attention to it at the beginning but as I started tempting them by playing with the toy myself (the lengths to which I’d go to make my cats happy), they slowly gathered the courage to do the same.
8. Get Hiiiiigh on Catnip
No, not you, the cat. You have a few options when it comes to giving catnip to your cats. You can just sprinkle some on the floor and watch them roll around in it, you can stuff some catnip into a ball, or you can buy toys that already have catnip in them but you might not get the same results.
This “game” doesn’t require that much participation on your part because once the catnip kicks in, you might as well be wearing an Invisibility Cloak. Just make sure you’re there in case your cat gets overly excited or has a negative reaction to the catnip.
9. Follow the Mouse
Similar to fetch the mouse but with an added layer of fun for both you and your cat, follow the mouse involves you buying a battery-operated mouse (luckily, they’re not expensive) that you can get to move around the house for your cat to follow. I guarantee they’ll be attracted to anything that moves.
If you want to make it more realistic and challenging for them, make the mouse go under sofas or chairs so the cat can patiently wait for it to come out, then hunt it. If there are any motorized parts involved, always supervise your cat when playing with their toy.
10. Play on the Tablet
Cats these days – all they want to do is sit on the couch and play on their tablet, am I right? Did you know there are games out there designed specifically for cats? As you would expect, they feature things like moving mice, fish, and different graphics that your cat will find absolutely fascinating.
It might not be the best way to get your cat to exercise but it will definitely keep it entertained and curious. Get involved in your cat’s playtime by pointing out different things on the screen for your cat to interact with.
There you have it: 10 games you can play with your cat at home without spending too much (or any) money. Which one of these do you regularly play with your cat? Do you have any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments.
Andreea is the Lead Editor of Crazy Rich Pets, an up-and-coming website dedicated to pet owners who want the very best for their furry companions in terms of food, treats, toys, and more. She is the proud owner of two cats, Sherlock and Smokey, whom she loves spending time with, and she enjoys writing about animal-related topics and researching the latest trends in cat care.