Does Kitty Ambush Your Ankles?
What’s cute when your pet’s a kitten isn’t so sweet when a fully-grown adult cat trips you on the stairs. However, your feline friend isn’t trying to be annoying but just expressing the natural urge to stalk, paw, and pounce.
The Importance of Play
Kittens as young as two weeks old bat at moving objects. Tapping a ping-pong ball with a paw is cute, but more importantly it’s teaching the kitten muscle co-ordination and building her strength.
As the weeks pass, kittens learn vital skills that will help them catch prey in the wild. Those games of stalking, pouncing, and ambushing their litter mates are all about strengthening muscles, learning eye-to-paw coordination, balance and other hunting skills.
Here are some of the landmarks of play behavior development:
- 2 weeks: A kitten plays solo by batting a ball
- 3 weeks: Games start to involve other kittens
- 5 weeks: Stalking and chasing are popular pastimes
- 6 weeks: Wrestling skills develop
- 6 to 7 weeks: Climbing and balancing are the order of the day
What Does This Have to Do With Making Cat Toys?
Quite simply, a played-out cat is less likely to develop annoying behavioral problems. Give your cat at least two active play sessions a day and they are less likely to create their own amusement by pooping in your flower pots.
Let’s use the science of behavior to create cat toys that encourage natural behaviors such as pouncing or stalking. Here’s how to create cool cat toys that give an outlet to those hunting trips that might otherwise result in bitten ankles.
Cats love any object that moves unpredictably. Think of a mouse scurrying in a hedgerow and you’ll understand why. Those sudden changes of direction press the red alert button for a cat hunting supper.
The simplest cat toy in the world is a ball of scrunched up paper, but it works. Why? Because the unpredictable movement when you toss it across the room appeal to the cat’s hunting instincts. Alternatively, glue feathers to the egg-shaped container from a kid’s candy egg to make a cool wobbler that won’t fall over!
Thrill your cat with a laser pointer, darting around the room. Just make sure to always finish the game with the red dot landing on a real toy, so the cat gets the satisfaction of making a kill and isn’t left feeling frustrated.
Another easy-to-make cat toy requires nothing more than a few feathers and a piece of string. Voila, you just made an inexpensive wing-on-a-string. In fact, try tying any small cat toy on a string and the ability to make it jig and dance is a paws-itive temptation for your furry friend to play with.
Cat behavior programs them to hunt for food, so how much fun would it be to have this happen at home.
Instead of giving them supper in one dish, try hiding small portions around the house so kitty must search it out. If you don’t like the idea of kitty kibble behind the sofa, then consider a puzzle feeder.
Puzzle feeders come in lots of different designs, but work on the basic idea of getting puss to use a paw to move the food to a point where they can eat it. Make your own puzzle feeder by drilling kibble sized holes (just be sure the edges are smooth) in an empty plastic bottle. Put some treats inside then let the cat bat the bottle around to get the biscuits to drop out.
You can make your cat another type of puzzle feeder using the cardboard inserts from toilet paper. Collect around 30 and then glue them together in a stack that’s five rolls wide and six rows high. Pop some biscuits in each cardboard tube so your cat has to scoop them out with a paw.
Exploring The Environment
Ever noticed how cats love to play with boxes or paper bags?
This is all about exploring their environment and checking for hidden birds. Something as simple as a paper grocery bag can be a really cool cat toy (just be sure to remove the handles so the cat doesn’t get caught up). And then there are boxes; leave one or two in prime positions so that kitty can play the ever-popular game of: “Do I fit in this box?”
Some cats are suckers for catnip, and providing a mouse stuffed with catnip will immediately make it a favorite toy. If you have an old toy mouse that’s lost its pizzazz, try rubbing it in catnip to reawaken kitty’s interest.
And don’t forget a cat’s other senses. To a cat, a rustle or crinkling sound could be a mouse in the undergrowth, and it’s guaranteed to get their interest. Test your cat with different textures and types of cool cat toys to see what captures her imagination.
Cool cat toys don’t have to be expensive or difficult to make. With a little imagination they can be as simple as a few ping-pong balls in an empty bathtub to make an instant ice-hockey game. Play with your cat daily and remember that by providing an outlet for natural behaviors your ankles are much safer from attack.