How can you play with your cat safely?
- Choose toys that are safe for your cat.
- Train your kitten to play nicely.
- Wait for the right time and don’t be too pushy.
- End the play on a positive note.
Many people have tried to play with their cats only to end up getting scratched or worse, bitten. Also, some cat owners don’t know that certain toys, even those marketed toward cats, can be unsafe, particularly for kittens. Check out this guide to playing with your cat in such a way that nobody, human or feline, gets hurt.
Keep Your Cat Safe by Choosing Safe Toys
While cats often enjoy cat toys, a lot of kitties like to play with everyday objects that you might find around your house. For example, have you ever seen your cat batting around the plastic ring from a milk jug? Cats will often discover items that have been dropped on the floor and find them fun to play with. While this is adorable, it can also be dangerous in some cases.
For example, don’t let your cat play with twist ties (such as the kind you might find on a package of bread) or paper clips. These are fun to bat around, but they can also be a choking hazard if your cat decides to chew on them. Particularly if you have a kitten, be sure to keep the floor clear of small items like this.
Also, keep in mind that some cat toys are meant to be played with only under supervision. These include the kinds with string and feathers. A cat can swallow a long piece of string, leading to intestinal blockage. Feathers can be choked on if your kitty manages to dislodge them from the toy they’re attached to.
Train Your Kitten to Play Nicely
Most kitten owners find that their little furry friends are adorably hilarious. It can even seem cute when your little kitty gnaws on your fingers or attacks your ankles as you walk by the couch that they’ve been hiding under. It might seem funny when your cat is a two-pound ball of fluff, but it won’t be as funny when they develop long nails and sharp teeth.
The easiest way to train your cat not to bite or scratch while playing is simply never to use your hands as toys. Hands are for petting and for holding toys, but they’re not to be used as the toys themselves, even if your kitten is very small and doesn’t have very sharp teeth yet. Rest assured, they, along with the rest of your cat, will grow!
If your cat does bite during play, it’s best to immediately stop playing for a minute or two. Take the toys away, turn your back, and don’t interact with the cat. They will get the message after a few times: If they bite, all play stops.
Timing Is Everything
Cats can be a bit cantankerous at times, and this includes when they are not in the mood for playing but their human is insisting on it. Watch for signs that your cat is interested in playing. These include the following:
- Approaching you with their tail straight up. This can mean that your cat is anticipating something pleasant, whether that’s food, a treat, a snuggle, or some playtime. Take out a toy and see if they’re ready to play.
- Batting you with their paws. Some cats will gently bat you when they are ready for playtime. Be aware, however, that cats will also bat at you if you are annoying them as a precursor to a scratch. So think about whether you were encroaching on their personal space or otherwise doing something that could call for a warning before you take it as an invitation to play.
- Rubbing their cheeks against you or head-butting you. These are signs of affection and could mean that your cat is in good spirits and ready to play.
- Meowing. Cats have all different reasons to communicate with their humans, and wanting to play is one of them. If you pay close attention, you’ll learn over time what the different meows mean. In the meantime, go ahead and try offering a toy to see if that’s what your feline pal is saying.
Watch for Signs That Playtime Is Over
You’ve undoubtedly had the experience of playing with your kitty and then suddenly finding yourself the object of their claws or teeth. While it might seem out of the blue, many cats give subtle signs that they are all done playing. When these signs are ignored, they lash out.
If your cat has flattened their ears against their head, that’s a sign that they’re getting too much stimulation; in this case, it would be wise to step back. Batting you (as opposed to a toy) with their paw is another sign. So is simply walking away. If your cat loses interest in playing, it’s time to end the session with a treat or two and give them some quiet time. For most cats, 10 to 15 minutes is about the upper limit for a good play session.
By learning how to read your feline friend, you can play with them while keeping both of you safe and happy. Take some time each day to develop your relationship with your cat by petting, playing, and simply spending time together.