Interactive Play: How To Mimic “Prey” for Your Cat

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Interactive play is a form of playtime that requires human effort to mimic hunting opportunities that will fulfill your cat’s natural predatory instincts. This form of playtime uses specific “prey” toys and movement that feel real for the cat, like catching mice, birds and insects. Playing this way with your cat not only provides hunting enrichment, but it’s also a fun way for you to bond, and it’s a great way to be preventative for unwanted behavior. Without prey play, your cat will find its own prey to hunt, such as your foot as you walk by, your hand as you type, or an innocent bystander like your dog, other cat, or child. Cats need to hunt, bottom line, so providing appropriate and interactive prey play will keep everyone in your home much happier.

We recommend that your cat gets at least two separate 15 minute interactive prey play sessions with you each day, and we’ve provided the specifics on exactly how to do that below.

TYPES OF PREY AND HOW TO PLAY

Ground Prey

Ground prey is any interactive toy that mimics a mouse or other small ground rodent that a cat would hunt. Ground prey toys are generally wand or string toys with a toy mouse or something similar at the end. When playing with ground prey toys, you will want to mimic the natural movement and behavior that a mouse might have:

  • Keep it on the ground – mice don’t fly
  • Mix in slow movement with quick bursts of fast movement, providing stops in between
  • “Hide and peek” by moving it behind and around objects
  • Once the cat catches the mouse, wiggle it gently while in his paws or mouth

Air Prey

Air prey is any interactive toy that mimics a bird. Air prey toys are wand toys with feathers attached to the end of the string. The most common air prey toy is the “Da Bird,” and you can find it at any pet retailer. When playing with air prey toys, you will want to mimic the natural movement and behavior that a bird might have:

  • Flutter and wiggle the feathers around as you move them throughout the air
  • Fly the feathers above the cat, occasionally landing on surfaces at various heights like the couch and the floor
  • Once the cat catches the bird, wiggle it gently while in his paws or mouth

Insect Prey

Insect prey is any interactive toy that mimics an insect or bug. Insect prey toys are wire based to provide a sporadic unpredictable movement. The most common insect prey toys are the “Cat Dancer” and “Wire Teaser,” which can be found at any pet retailer. When playing with insect prey toys, you will want to mimic the natural movement and behavior that insects have:

  • These wire toys mostly wiggle around on their own
  • Use both slow and quick movements
  • Change up the movement from in the air to the ground

EQUIPPING OUT FELINES WITH THE CORRECT TOYS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A COSTLY ENDEAVOR, AND CAN EVEN BE A FUN PROJECT!

DIY Prey Ideas

  • Crumple up newspaper and attach it with twine to the end of a stick for quick and easy prey with texture and sound
  • Place one or more ping ping balls in an empty bathtub for your cat to chase the bouncing balls around 
  • Wiggle shoe strings around on the floor and get your cat to follow and hunt this simple but exciting ground prey
  • Stuff an old sock with catnip and crumpled up paper, tie a knot in the end, and drag along the floor or hide and peek
  • Get crafty and create your own wand toy with a wooden dowel, cording, feathers and a glue gun

Avoid These Things

  • Yarn, string and skinny ribbon
  • Tinsel and dental floss
  • Rubber bands and buttons
  • Plastic (such as the ring from a milk jug) and plastic bags
  • Anything sharp

The items listed above are a safety hazard. If swallowed, strings can become tangled in the intestinal tract and cause serious, life threatening conditions. Plastic and small objects like buttons, sequins, and “eyes” can cause mouth lacerations as well as intestinal tract emergencies.

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