Why Doesn't My Cat Like to Play?
Play Style & Toy Type
When your cat doesn’t play, it can be very disappointing. The cause of this could be as simple as play style and toy preferences. Each cat has their own preferences and they may not find their current options interesting.
Likely, the type of play isn’t motivating to the cat. Some cats want to interact with their guardians during play time by engaging in a game of fetch or chase games, while others prefer to interact at a distance with the use of string teaser toys.
Your cat may prefer to play on their own with interactive toys that are either battery operated or involve some sort of action from the cat to keep the game going.
Some pet guardians use their hands to play with their cat. It is not recommended to engage in hand play with cats, as they become overwhelmed and may bite or scratch. Over time, they may associate hand play with a negative experience, skipping the play and going straight to defensive behaviors.
Cats have preferences on the type of toys that they prefer. There are tons of cat toys on the market, so finding the right type can help spark interest in your cat. Some toys bounce, squeak, chirp, have feathers, fur, tails, float, light up, etc. They may only want to play with a certain type of toy.
Cats may not play if they aren’t feeling well. If your cat is usually playful and suddenly they stop, this may be an indication that something is going on internally. Overweight cats may be less likely to play due to lack of energy, so a diet may be necessary to maintain optimal health.
Especially if you have just adopted your cat, they may need time to settle in before they start playing. If the cat wasn’t socialized well as a kitten, they may be fearful of the home, other pets, or humans. If this is the case, your cat may need extra time to warm up to their new environment.
Cats may stop playing if there is a change in their environment. This includes moving to a new home, new pet, new child, or even moving furniture around. Cats are very sensitive to their environment and will need to acclimate after any major changes.
What to do
Cats are excellent at hiding illness since they are a prey animal to larger carnivores. They do not like to show weakness. The first indication that something is off with their health is usually not physical illness signs. If the cat is suddenly uninterested in play, it is recommended that you bring them to the veterinarian. It is beneficial to rule out any illness when changes of behavior are observed.
Different Play Style
If you have been using your hands to play with your cat, you may want to switch to another style, as cats can become overstimulated by our actions. When cats become overstimulated, they typically act in a defensive manner by swatting or biting. Try a string teaser type of toy, instead of your hands.
If you are playing with a string toy, try to mimic how the cat’s prey would move. Create scurrying and stop behaviors of a mouse or simulate flying and landing like a bird. Play around with the speed and how long the “hunt” is before they catch it.
Try throwing toys for your cat to chase. Some cats get the pattern and start bringing the toy back!
Present a variety of toys to your cat. Get toys that look, smell, and move differently. Some cats only want to interact with toys if they smell like catnip or if they dispense treats. Other cats enjoy battery operated toys such as the Hexbug Nano or the Hexbug mouse.
Some cats prefer toys that are on a track or move after they interact with them such as the Catit Senses toys.
If they already have a ton of toys, take half of them and store them in a location that your cat can’t get to, after a week or a month, swap the two halves. Rotating toys can make old toys super exciting again.
Try setting up the toys in new locations, maybe you have an empty box from a recent delivery. Put a few toys in the box and let your cat rediscover the toys they have.
Hang the string toy from a chair so that it presents an interesting visual as they walk past.
Be creative in how you present and place toys around the house and see which type your cat likes best.
If you have a very active household, the cat may become overwhelmed by the noise or movement. Make sure that the cat has adequate places to hide, especially elevated spaces like cat trees.
Once the cat feels more comfortable, pick a quiet time and go slow. This may just be gently tossing a toy to them while giving lots of space. A string toy can be useful as well because it doesn’t require the cat to be right next to you.
Some cats would rather engage in activities other than play. If that is the case, provide your cat with different types of enrichment. Bird watching is a popular activity, whether you set up a bird feeder outside a window or turn on a video of birds eating on TV.
Creating a potted cat garden can keep your cat busy by munching on cat grass or sniffing plants and herbs such as valerian, catnip, parsley, etc. Just make sure that the plants are safe for cats.
For more enrichment options, click here.