Therapy to Get Cats Off the Couch
by Lee Chambers
What is Play Therapy and how does it help cats? Dakin's Feline Success Coordinator Alanna Regan explains how you can use Play Therapy to lift your cat's spirits and improve your bond with your pet!
Q: What is play therapy for cats?
A: It's basically structured play sessions that you have with your cat, 2 to 3 times a day, for 10 to 15 minutes each time with a high value interactive toy, like a wand toy for example. It's important that it's tactile, so they can touch it and pounce on it. The toy should have a high value to your cat; for example some cats love a toy that flies through the air, while some prefer a toy that moves on the ground like a snake.
Q: Why is it important?
A: Play therapy can help a multitude of issues, and it provides mental and physical stimulation which reduces stress. When a cat is stressed, you can see behavior issues like house soiling, destructive behavior, or spicy behavior towards other pets or people. Play therapy can also help strengthen the cat/human bond, and it helps the cat build confidence, which is another factor in behavior issues. If you have multiple cats in your household, see if you can play with them all in the room together. If not, maybe the other cat or cats need to be distracted by someone else – or put in another room - while you focus on one at a time. Then the other cats can have their play time, one-on-one.
Q: Is it just for newly-adopted cats or kittens?
A: No, you can introduce your cat to it at any time, whether you've had them for 2 days or 10 years. Most cats love playing
Q: What should happen after the play therapy?
A: The play session should be followed by a snack or a meal because that taps into their natural instincts of hunting – which play therapy mimics – then eating after the hunt. Cats are predators by nature.
Q: Should play therapy happen at a particular time of day?
A: Not really, but whatever time it is should be consistent each day so you get them on a schedule. Cats can thrive on structure, which reduces stress as they await their playtime.
Q: How does the person benefit?
A: Besides strengthening the bond with each other, a happy cat makes for a happy human!
Q: What are some ideal toys for play therapy?
A: There are several items out there like peacock feathers, Da Bird, Cat Charmer and Cat Dancer. You can find all of them on Amazon (they're also on Dakin's Amazon Wish List for our own kitties), and many pet stores have them.