Bonding Tip of The Week: Prey Play

2 min read

Molly DeVoss

Cat Behavior Solutions

Hi everybody! Molly from Cat Behavior Solutions, with your Bonding Tip of the Week! This week’s bonding tip is: prey play with your cat often.

Whatis prey play? It’s when you simulate a cat’s natural hunting cycles through play. You know those toys that dangle at the end of a stick, with maybe mouse cat toy or bird cat toy at the end of it? That’s the prey! And that’s where you want to start.

Whydo we prey play? Outside, a cat normally spends six hours a day hunting. These hours consist of the cat staring, stalking, chasing, pouncing, and killing the prey. When we keep them inside, house cats get a lot of pent-up energy because those six hours of hunting are no longer happening. In short, the answer to “is my cat bored” is—yes! So, we turn to prey play for holistic cat health.

Now, what do you have to do?You have to be the prey—or, at least, the toy does. That means acting like the prey does. Your cat can’t stand it when the toy goes out of sight, so that’s the biggest key: make that prey disappear out of sight so your cat will chase it. Then, when your cat catches it, make the prey seem wounded. Jiggle the interactive cat toys around a little bit so your cat feels like it’s struggling to get away. Most of all, let your cat win, so they get that “kill bite” in and the all-important serotonin boost in their brain.

Some prey play Don’ts:

  • Never use your fingers, toes, hands or other body parts as the prey. If you do, your cat is going to pounce without understanding that biting hands is not acceptable. This applies especially with kittens, who will grow up thinking that biting hands is fun. When they grow up, those bites can be really serious.
  • Don’t pop the wand toy prey in your cats face. If your cat is not engaging in prey play, work harder at making the toy move and act as prey would. A bird would never fly into your cat’s face, so that’s not simulating a predatory hunting experience.
  • Don’t play keep-away. It is very important that your cat get to catch the prey and deliver the kill bite, in order to complete that hunting sequence.
  • But, that said, don’t make it too easy either—prey are not flaunting themselves in front of your cat, but they are also being evasive and struggling to get away once caught.
  • • Don’t wear your cat out. Even though your cat spends six hours a day hunting, cats aren’t built for endurance; even a bored cat prefers activities with short bursts of energy. Keep the prey play sessions frequent but short.

Engaging in prey play is not only mentally stimulating, but good physical exercise for your cats too. And you don’t have to prey play a lot. Do it twice a day for ten-minute sessions, and it’ll help the two of you bond better.

So have fun prey playing—it’s a really good thing to give your kids to do with the cat. Until next time, keep calm and purr on.

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