Cat play and toys

Cat play and toys incorporates predatory games of "play aggression". These activities allow kittens and younger cats to grow and acquire cognitive and motor skills, and to socialize with other cats. Cat play behavior can be either solitary (with toys or other objects) or social (with animals and people). [ASPCA. Animal Behavior Center. "Play aggression".]

Nature of play


Since cats are meat-eating predators, nearly all cat games are predatory games. [Hall & Bradshaw 1998]

Prey is fearful of predators. Predators often encounter prey that attempt to escape predation. Prey that moves towards the cat with confidence may be exhibiting an aggressive defensive posture. Cats may play more with toys that behave more like prey that acts in fear and tries to escape than toys that mimic a more confrontational prey.

Most cat games mimic a specific type of hunting; [ [ Play Therapy - The Cure For Playful Aggression] . "Cats International". 2007.] for example, balls, fingers, sticks, and laser pointers emulate bugs, while rope or string may emulate a snake. One exception is catnip; catnip is a mood altering substance that provides a euphoric high and is not considered a toy.

uccess rate

Success rate is important in play. A cat that catches its prey every time soon gets bored, and a cat that never gets it just loses interest. The ideal hunting success rate is around 1 in 3 to 1 in 6. Capturing prey at this rate generally maximises a cat's interest in the game. [cite book
last = Bessant
first = Claire
title = The Complete Guide to the Cat
publisher = Barnes & Noble Publishing
date = 1999
pages =
isbn = 0760717184


Play is about predation, and a highly excited cat can cause minor injuries in the excitement of the moment. With most cats, it is wise to keep playthings at least 8" away from fingers.


Catching and eating are two closely related but separate activities. Domestic cats often store caught food for eating later. Eating happens when the game is over, so incorporating food into hunting games tends to end the interest in play.



last = Hall
first = Sarah L.
last2 = Bradshaw
first2 = John W. S.
title = The influence of hunger on object play by adult domestic cats
journal = Applied Animal Behaviour Science
volume = 58
issue = 1-2
pages = 143–150
date = June 1998
year = 1998
url =
doi = 10.1016/S0168-1591(97)00136-6
last = Johnson
first = Pam
title = How to play with your Cat
publisher = SF/SPCA
url =
accessdate = 2008-01-12
title = Animal Behavior Center: Cat Behavior: Play aggression
publisher = ASPCA
url =
accessdate = 2008-01-12
title = Animal Behavior Center: Cat Behavior: Cat's play
publisher = ASPCA
url =
accessdate = 2008-01-12

* [ Cats and infra-red vision]

* [ Hazards of cat toys]

External articles

* [ Before You Buy Toys for Cats] at
* [ Play Therapy and Cat Toys]
* [ Cat Toys]

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