Cat Playtime (Tips for Safe Family Play)

Playtime with your cat can be fun for both adults and children, but there must be some rules in place first. Rule number one is to never play a game where your cat chases your hand. Don’t wiggle your fingers or move your hand so that the cat will chase it. Don’t play this game under the covers either. Cats are programmed to chase and kill small wiggly things, and a bite or scratch from a cat can be painful. Also, you don’t want your cat to think your hand is a toy that he can bite or scratch at will. Use appropriate toys that your cat can catch and bite—not your hand.

Supervise Cats and Children

Supervise play between a cat and small child. Children can be too rough with a pet, and you don’t want your cat or child injured. Some cats will tolerate more than others, but don’t risk injury to your child. Teach children to stroke gently and not to pull on tails or legs. Also supervise play so that you can separate cat and child if you recognize that the cat is getting stressed and may be ready to bite or scratch.

Never let a child corner your cat. Any animal that feels trapped may panic and attack. Call a time-out occasionally so that if your cat would like to end the play, he can do it without anyone getting hurt.

If you have a kitten who isn’t used to keeping his claws sheathed during play, stop play when the claws come out. It’s okay if your kitten is clawing or biting an appropriate toy, but if he tries to bite or scratch you, or a child, make a hissing noise and stop playing. Ignore the kitten for a few minutes before returning to play. He will soon learn that biting or scratching means an end to the fun.

Provide Toys and Hiding Spots

Provide cat-specific toys. Some cats enjoy retrieving, and crinkly foil balls are perfect for this game. A catnip mouse also works, and cats love just about anything with fur or feathers attached. You can also simply throw a ping-pong ball into your bathtub (without water), add your cat, and watch the fun.

Cats love places to hide, like in the Four Paws® Super Catnip® Crazy Pants. The legs of the pants offer two tunnels in which cats can hide, and the catnip sewn into the legs keeps them coming back for more. 

No matter which toys you use, leave out two or three and put the rest away, then rotate the toys every two to three weeks to keep them fresh and interesting for your cat.