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More than just a toy...(Understanding Cat Play with BarkButler X Fofo)

Did you know that playtime is not just a hobby? This universal behaviour is why they were domesticated! Cats take it a little more seriously even though they look quite goofy. They are absolute carnivores with instinctual hunting skills. The mother cat is a fantastic teacher who uses play to teach her kittens the skills they need to hunt. She teaches them to chase her tail and will bring back half-dead prey for them to kill. About 10,000 years ago, our ancestors thought cats were perfect hunters who didn't need any modification.

This is why you can still see that the domestic cat (Felis catus) has many of its predatory behaviour instincts like crepuscular activities, hiding, heightened sense of hearing & smell, vigilant behaviour etc. but one instinct is extremely powerful; the need to hunt.

How do you know what your cat needs?

Your cat is a natural hunter but this doesn't mean you need to send anyone on a real hunt because that would confuse your pampered cat. Studies show it's so important to engage in this behaviour that the cat doesn't even need to be hungry to hunt. However, indoor cats are happy to satisfy this need with toys rather than live prey. Cat hunting is a positive and natural behaviour. They experience a variety of changes in their surrounding which would otherwise be scary like sudden noises, a variety of textured surfaces, heights etc. This allows the cat to become accustomed to change that would otherwise stress them out. This builds their health and confidence.

Do all cats NEED to play?

Unless your cat is suffering from a medical condition, my answer is yes. For cats with a higher predatory instinct, if no proper outlet is provided, the cat could find a way to express this like chasing ankles or objects. Other cats might get sink back into their shell and sleep, hide and groom excessively. This can further lead to obesity and several health issues down the road. I'm not saying your cat doesn't like to laze around in the sun and do nothing (they are very good at that) but I am saying, that is not all your cat should do. A few 10-minute play sessions per day doesn't take up much time and is a fantastic bonding activity.

But how do we do this at home?

1. Socialization

The socialization period that influences object play is between 12 weeks and 4 months. Cats tend to become more suspicious and potentially fearful of things they have not encountered until that point. If you have the chance to capitalize on this age bracket it will have a huge effect on your cat's confidence as an adult. If you have an adult, you still have a chance to make your cat more confident but it would need to be done more gradually.

2. Relaxed Cat

Cats need to be relaxed in their environment to play with toys, to begin with. It's important to engage with the cat and supervise when you give a new toy. Sniffing catnip can help your cat relax but genetics determines whether your cat will react to it at all. You should test this after 6 months of age.

BarkButler x Fofo Catnip range is multi-functional because even if your cat cannot react to the nip, the toys in themselves can be used for several other purposes to boost the cat's confidence and stimulate play.

For example, they have the most adorable range of faux Coffee cups and other hollow toys that can be used as a great puzzle to hide treats in. They also make various noises when the cat engages with it like crinkling sounds, bells etc. All these features are important for play.

3. Picking the right toy

Cats tend to choose toys that have features that resemble prey like feathers, fur, smaller size, higher-pitched sounds, movement etc. If your cat is not engaging with a toy it could be too big or may not match this criterion.

I am a big fan of the 'BarkButler x Fofo's Electronic Mouse' range which not only is the perfect size and texture but also makes the sound. Since a cat's hearing is 1.6 octaves higher than a human they are conditioned to be more interested in toys that make suitable noises.

4. Picking the right time

Think about the time someone tried to wake you up for a 5 am workout or the last time someone tried to feed you after you already ate. Timing is everything. Cats tend to hunt before they are VERY hungry as this involves roaming and it can take time but the hunting activity will build up their appetite. As a routine, your cat should be fed after playtime. You do not want your hands to come in between a cat and its prey. 'BarkButler x Fofo' has teaser wand toys that resemble prey for distanced & safe play. You could also attach your own string to the mouse toy which will add movement.

Pro Tip: If your cat hasn't had many positive experiences with toys you may also notice a complete avoidance or disinterest in store-bought toys. Don't give up. Sometimes, the size of the teaser toy can be intimidating to cats that don't have too much experience. In this case, you would get the cat accustomed to playing with the components of the toys individually first before you try it all together.

For example, use single ribbons, furry objects, something with a bell before you introduce this toy. The more variety of toys the cats engage with the more confident they would become.

5. Picking the right surroundings

Hunters sneak up on their prey, so your cat needs an environment that doesn't leave them exposed. It helps you have a darker room, curtains, cardboard boxes or blankets to hide behind. Always remember to let your toys run away from the cat and not towards as actual prey wouldn't normally dance around in front of a cat. This counts as annoying your cat.

These tips should start you on the right paw. Cats have very basic needs to keep them satisfied. At the end of the day you have a little hunter at home. It gives your cat purpose, confidence and happiness.

Links for toys:

Some links are attached to the article as I speak about them.

The rest are attached below here.

Coffee Packet Toy:

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