Last week, I wrote about feeding cats. Something I learned that is closely related to feeding them is playing with them.
What we consider "play" is probably more like "work" to a cat. In nature, they have to work for their food--stalking, pouncing, and killing prey. It's an instinct that cats have, so they can't control that urge to stalk, pounce, and kill. I learned that I was playing with my cats all wrong!
I used to get a toy (usually something dangling at the end of a string) and I would dangle it in front of my cats and they would bat at it. Cats may find this a little entertaining, but once I started playing with my cats the way I was taught at Purina ONE, they went crazy for it! Even Chandler, who is SUPER lazy; I've never seen him so active as I have this past week.
In nature, a cat's prey doesn't jump around right in front of the cat, or dangle itself right in front of the cat's face. The prey tries to run and hide to get away from the cat. Meanwhile, the cat is watching very closely, and sneaking up on it, and, eventually, pouncing on it for the kill.
So the best way to play with your cat is to imitate the prey. Instead of dangling the toy in front of the cat, we can slowly drag the toy across the floor, turn corners, make it "crawl" up onto a table, etc. All of my cats (well, except Paolo--I think he may have problems with his vision) are obsessed with a particular toy that was included in the box Purina ONE sent me. Here is what it looks like:
It's a long skinny pole (like a fishing rod) with this feather thing hooked to it. The feathers are unique because when you "fly" the thing through the air, it actually kind of spins and looks similar to a bird. Rather than just dangle it in front of them, I use the pole to make the "bird" fly all over the room. The cats watch it very carefully, and once in a while when it swoops down, they leap in the air and try to grab it. I don't make it easy for them, because then it's not as fun for them. It's important to let them catch it before you put the toy away, though, so they have the satisfaction of getting their "kill".
I learned that the best time to play with the cats is right before they eat. In nature, the cats hunt and then eat, so that is what we should try to imitate. Play (hunt), catch the "prey", and then eat.
Another way you can get your cat to work for their food is by using a puzzle feeder. I'd never heard of these until I went to Purina ONE headquarters. There are lots of different types, but basically, they make your cat have to work a little bit to get the food out. Here are a couple of pictures of the ones that were included in the box from Purina ONE:
In the first one, with the little green cups, you put a few pieces of kibble inside each cup, and the cat has to reach in and grab a the food and pull it out. Estelle has been using this one a lot, and she does really well with it. Paolo watches her, and then tries to get the food that Estelle has gotten out--sneaky cat! ;)
The second picture is a white ceramic puzzle feeder. You put the dry kibble in through the hole in the top, and it spreads out on the bottom. The cats have to reach in through the sides to pull out a few pieces of food at a time. Phoebe prefers this one.
The third picture is a wobbler puzzle feeder--you put food or treats inside, and there is a little hole (just big enough to dispense a couple of pieces at a time) on the side. When the cat swats at the toy, and it tips on its side, some food may fall out. My cats haven't gotten the hang of this one yet, but Estelle ripped the fuzzy tail off the top of it, and she adores that part!
I haven't had any luck getting Chandler or Paolo to use the puzzle feeders. Chandler is too lazy and set in his ways, and Paolo is just too finicky and dependent. If he had his way, we'd be setting a place for him with candlelight and a silver platter ;)
So anyway, your cat's instincts make them want to work for their food--whether it's the stalking and "killing" before eating, or by using their brain to come up with ways to get the food out of a puzzle feeder. My cats have absolutely loved that I've been playing with them the "right" way, and they've gotten into a good routine now (play, eat, groom, sleep). It took about four days of craziness to get them used to it, but it's gotten much easier now, and I know they are happier.
Next week, I'll write about the best "natural" environment at home for our cats.
Now, the winner of last week's photo contest for the cat food...
I got nearly a hundred photos, and they were all fantastic--I've loved going through them! But I left the decision up to my boys. Noah and Eli both agreed on the winner:
I realized last week that I looked at my coupons incorrectly. One was for dry food, the others are for wet food. So for this week's contest, to win a coupon for cans of wet food (Purina ONE Healthy Metabolism variety), please e-mail me a "playful" photo of your cat. You can interpret "playful" however you'd like. My e-mail address is SlimKatie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. Important: Use the subject "Playful Cat", to make sure it doesn't go to spam or get buried in other e-mail. I'll accept photos until Thursday, 4/11/13 at 4:00 PM.
|Here is a rare picture of Paolo being playful. That's about as lively as he gets!|
You can check out more about The True Nature of Cats movement on Facebook and on the Purina ONE website.
(Disclaimer: Purina ONE covered my travel costs and provided me with a box of cat toys and food in exchange for my thoughts on the True Nature of Cats movement. I was not required to give a favorable opinion.)