There is a common misconception about cats regarding the amount of stimulation they need to receive. Many people mistakenly believe that cats are self-sufficient and capable of entertaining themselves without difficulty.
In the olden days, care of cats was very basic; most cats were only given table scraps to supplement the food that they hunted for themselves, and very rarely were cats given toys. The primary use of a cat in the olden days was for catching rodents, so the cats were not house pets, but employees of the household.
When felines made the switch to household companions, people began to give them proper food and allow them to sleep on the furniture with them. Many cats found comfort in the lap of a human friend, while kittens scampered around the ankles of children and adults alike.
Despite this shift in the focus of felines, however, people did not recognize the need for mental and physical stimulation for cats until very recently. It is still an area of animal science that is being heavily explored and studied today, and there are many distances it must cover before we can consider the research complete.
Playtime is one of the most vital aspects of owning a cat, even those that are older and do not seem to require as much personal inner kitten time. Not only is playing with your cat a great way of bonding with them, it is a way to stimulate their natural hunting instincts.
Playing, especially with feather or string toys that cats can chase and capture, is a healthy way of releasing these natural instincts. It is important for cats to have a good way of releasing them, as otherwise they are prone to releasing these behaviors in undesirable ways, such as playing roughly with human hands or pouncing on feet while the owner is sleeping.
There are a variety of toys that a cat can enjoy. Many can entertain themselves fairly well with a large amount of different small, shiny, feathery, noisy items. Others require more intense stimulation, and this is when games or interactive toys can be helpful. One of the most popular is the well-known Cat’s Meow, which features a cloth that has a fake mouse moving underneath it.
Another popular toy is one that shines a laser beam that you can move around on the floor and walls. Not only can these toys entertain a cat while the owner is not home, but many have changing patterns and can provide different types of stimulation.
An interesting fact about having your kitty chase a laser light – there is actually a patent on this. It is called “Method of Exercising A Cat” and is under United States Patent 5443036. The abstract: “A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct.” Who would have guessed!
More kitties playing (click the images to see them full-sized)