Break out the magic wand
It’s no secret that cats love birds. Or rather, they love trying to hunt them. A wand-type toy with feathers on the end may just be the magic solution to turning your kitty couch potato into a die-hard hunter in minutes. Wand toys are easy to find both online and in most pet shops. Or try making your own using a wooden dowel and sturdy string or ribbon – simply tie some feathers or a feathered toy on the end of the string!
Again along the hunting lines, this one is a little higher-octane. A small (mouse-sized!) remote control car can provide some hilarious entertainment for your cat – and for you as you watch her zoom around after it! Mimic a real mouse by driving the car briefly under a chair or behind a sofa to “hide”. Be sure to supervise your cat very closely while playing with any kind of toy with motorized parts; safety comes first!
Hide and seek
Dogs aren’t the only pets that can play this fun game! Start out pretty easy, so that the game is fun and rewarding for your cat. Call her (mealtime is the best way to start this, if you haven’t already) and watch her come running. Then, move to different rooms and make it gradually harder. Reward her efforts with a favorite toy or a couple of dry kibbles. Aside from being a fun game that teaches your cat how fun it is to come and find you, it’s a great way to reinforce coming when called!
Mysteriously moving objects
This game plays on your cat’s natural curiosity in an oh-so-fun game that everyone can play! Tie a long string to one of your cat’s favorite toys when she isn’t looking (a stuffed mouse works great, or even a nice crinkly bit of paper or a bouncy cork). Hold one end of the string, while keeping the toy in the middle of the room. A sharp tug on the string will make the toy dance – and will grab your cat’s attention fast! Or, slowly pull the toy across the floor and she’ll come running to investigate. Keep her moving, but allow her to catch the toy before you put it away.
Like the above game, this one involves a favorite toy, and a long bit of string. This time, toss the toy over a door, while you hide on the other side. Like the popular children’s carnival game of “fishing for a prize” you’ll be fishing for your cat! Keep your cat leaping and reaching for the toy, allowing her make a grand catch before you finish the game, so that she’ll be excited to play again next time. Any toys with strings should be safely stored out of kitty’s reach between play sessions to prevent her eating, or becoming tangled up in the string.
Instead of immediately putting food dishes down for your kitty, walk around the house first, taking your cat for a “walk” as she follows her food. A bite or two every few minutes will reward her for following you, so she doesn't lose interest. Even better, combine this with feeding your cat her dry food from a food-dispensing treat ball instead of a regular bowl at the end of the walk, and feed canned or pouch food from a shallow dish at other times. (Cats love being fed several times a day, just keep the amounts sensible so they don’t gain weight).
Humans are not prey – ever: Be aware – never allow your cat to use your fingers, toes, ankles, etc. as “prey” – otherwise you’ll be teaching her that hunting people is appropriate. Since this is painful and can quickly turn dangerous – not to mention being hard to break once it becomes established – don’t let it start. It might seem cute when she’s a small kitten, but when she’s a full-sized adult hunter with nearly inch-long fangs and razor-sharp claws, it will be anything but cute!
Keep it real: Make toy movements realistic for your cat – watch a real mouse or bird to see how prey animals really act and move, then make sure the toys mimic that during playtime with your cat. Videos are a great resource; a simple internet search will turn up thousands of examples.
Don’t be afraid to DIY: Simple toys can be made in seconds using things you already have at home. Cats get bored easily, so rotating toys, or giving her a toy designed for only a few minutes of play is a smart solution. Look around, and you’ll find dozens of great sources of for-free fun! A plastic bottle cap is a fun toy for batting around that you can simply recycle once she tires of. Cardboard boxes can become castles that need to be conquered, and an empty plastic bottle (clean and dry, of course) can serve as an all-in-one dispenser of treats and mental stimulation. Your only limit is your imagination! A quick internet search will yield rich results, if you’re coming up short on ideas.
Keep it fun and keep it varied, but most of all – keep it safe.