pet cat

Play with Your Cat!

By Mikel Maria Delgado

Cats love to hunt. But keeping pet cats indoors is safest for them—and for wildlife. With a little help from you, your cat can have fun leaping and pouncing right in your living room!

cat illustration

If you like playing with your cat, here’s some good news: Your cat also likes playing with you! Many of the best cat toys are interactive ones: the kind you and your cat play with together. One good example is a stick dangling a string with a feather tied to it. Here are some tips on how to help your cat get exercise and have fun.


  • Keep the toy at a distance. Cats are most excited by movement a few feet away from them.
  • Move a toy fast, then slowly, then fast again. See which speed your cat prefers.
  • Move a toy slowly under some tissue paper. Cats love the crinkling noise.
  • If your cat is shy, try smaller, quieter toys, such as a shoelace.
  • Let your cat catch the toy once in a while. You don’t want your pet to get frustrated!
  • Try different toys to keep things interesting. Don’t you get bored when you have to play the same games over and over? So does your cat!
  • Put all interactive toys away when you aren’t around to prevent your cat from getting hurt. Cats could accidentally swallow or get tangled up in strings.
  • Play with your cat every day. Some cats need only a few minutes a day. But other cats—especially kittens—may need a lot more!


Food puzzles are toys that your cat can play with to get treats or food. Giving your cat the chance to “hunt” for food can be fun for Kitty—and fun for you to watch. Here are three make-it-yourself food puzzles that will bring out your cat’s inner hunter.

  1. cat toyFOOD TUBE. Use scissors to cut a few holes in a paper-towel or toilet-paper tube. Make sure the holes are big enough for cat treats or food to easily fall through (with a little work). Add some food and tape up the ends of the tube. Then watch your cat push and roll the tube around to get food!
  2. TREAT TOWER. Tape together a pyramid of toilet-paper tubes (three on the bottom, two in the middle, and one on the top). Place a few pieces of dry food in each tube, and let your cat paw at the toy to fish the food out.
  3. cat toyKITTY CARTON.  An empty egg carton can be a food puzzle! Place some dry food in the cups of the carton and let your cat scoop the kibble out.

Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado is a cat behavior expert and scientist who helps people better understand their cats. Mikel has three cats: Ruby, Coriander, and Professor Scribbles. She includes more playtime suggestions in her new book, Play with Your Cat! (TarcherPerigee, 2024).

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