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by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS

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Normal Play Behaviors - Preventing Play Destruction


What is normal?

 

In nature, cats would use their sharp incisor teeth to tear prey into bite size morsels of food. So, why wouldn't cats try to tear apart prey-like toys in prey-play?

 

Play is important to stimulate your cat's mind, and exercise your cat's body.  A tired cat is usually a better behaved cat.

 

Why is is important?

 

By five months of age, kittens begin to practice rough play with each other and practice hunting behaviors. In nature, play builds muscle and exercises the nervous system, and respiratory organs. 

 

Safely interrupt destructive play.  Toss in treats to prevent the cat from trying to digest non-food items as the prize winning of a play session.

 

What to do

 

Supervise your cat during play, especially when presenting a new toy. 
If your cat's arousal level goes to high and you see destruction about to occur, take a time out. Try playing with a piece of string or a less destructible toy.

 

Cats enjoy interactive play. Toys that are left out all the time may become less interesting to some cats. The novelty of toys is when they show up with you making them mimic real prey. These play sessions allow your cat to be true to his species and exercise normal natural behaviors and needs. 

Use play sessions as a reward after a brief training session.Allow your cat to periodically catch the toy being chased. Toss in treats to secure the win! Praise your cat for this successful hunt, and you will see your cat's interest in the game increase.


Normal Cat
Development

Feline Older Adult - 7 years and older [1]

  • Appetite changes - Provide food puzzle and food toys. Do not overfeed by providing only food your cat likes the best. Monitor weight, food and water intake. Take cat to the veterinarian if increased thirst, weight gain or loss.

  • Social play decreases - may play more if living with a cat that is socially compatible. Continue interactive play with food treats to reward "catching the prey" toys. Vary the games every few minutes to different prey-type toys and movements.

  • Increased Vocalization - may occur if your cat if feeling some discomfort or other stress. Take cat to the veterinarian for a comprehensive exam and diagnostic testing

  • Litter box use. If cat is spraying or not using the litter box every time, read library topics on feline litter box training and inappropriate elimination. Scoop 2x daily at a minimum and add a box with a sand-based odor free litter. Take cat to the veterinarian to evaluate cognitive disfunction due to aging.

  • Cat resources - Provide your cat lots of comfy beds, tall scratching posts, horizontal cardboard scratching areas, and protect against weather that is too hot or too cold.

  • Behavior changes are often the first sign of a physical problem. Aging cats may require special diets and medication prescribed by a veterinarian to lengthen life and quality of life.

[1] AAFP. (2004). Feline Behavior Guidelines. Pg. 10.


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