Cat play is a weighty matter


Cats need daily playtime to keep them healthy and happy, according to www.humanesociety.org. The organization lists multiple benefits including mental and physical stimulation, energy release, performing preying behaviors and bonding with their humans.

This is important because an Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) study shows over 50 percent of U.S. cats are overweight or obese. Unfortunately, our beloved, 15-year-old domestic short hair Abby falls in the overweight group.

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Abby doesn’t play. As much as my husband Ed, daughter Jordan and I tried to engage her, she didn’t really play as a kitten either.

The feline’s favorite game is hiding under a bed and sticking her paw out to try and catch a fake mouse attached to a stick that is twitching and fluttering just beyond her reach. She never jumps out from under the bed to catch the mouse.

When Abby is lounging and the mouse is waved around her instead of chasing it she’ll roll on her back and try to bat it away. She looks totally annoyed that the mouse is interrupting her lounging.

The newest member of our animal family, Jordan’s small black kitten Wednesday, plays and plays then plays some more.

Wednesday will play with just about anything. Balls, wand toys, toilet paper rolls to name a few. A tunnel and cat tower keeps her scurrying and jumping.

Abby and Wednesday are opposites. Case in point, the concealed motion toy. This toy consists of round piece of fabric with a feather wand attached underneath. It operates on batteries and offers four different speeds. The wand replicates movements of hidden prey.

Wednesday loves this toy. Her inner lioness emerges when it’s turned on and she uses multiple strategies to catch her prey.

The kitten runs around the fabric circle trying to catch the feather. She’ll sit still and wait until the feather comes to her. The lioness bats at her prey with forcefulness and purpose.

Wednesday’s most elaborate strategy is positioning herself in front of the tunnel and waiting until the feather comes near the opposite opening. When it does she tears through the tunnel, jumping on the circle and feather.

When the feline catches her prey, she cups it in her two front paws and bites into it. After a few nibbles, she releases the feather and starts the pursuit again.

It’s fun to watch.

Hopes were high that this toy would get Abby moving.

After much discussion, we placed it in our dinning room because it would be visible from a number of different rooms. Ed, Jordan and I could watch Abby play without her knowing it. We didn’t want her to feel pressured.

We turned it on.

Abby sat. She didn’t run around the circle chasing after the feather. She batted at it a few times as it came toward her. Her paws’ movements weren’t strong or assertive, more of a half effort.

The feline did have an elaborate strategy, but much different than Wednesday’s. Abby watched the feather move back and forth around the circle. Her head moved with the jerks and directional changes of her “prey.”

Then Abby moved. Our clever, healthy but overweight cat sat on the feather until it stopped twitching. Then she walked away never to go near the toy, again.

Abby is now on a diet. So far, she’s gained weight.

Karin Spicer, a magazine writer, has been entertaining families for more than 20 years. She lives in Bellbrook with her family and two furry animals all who provide inspiration for her work. She can be reached at spicerkarin@gmail.com.



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