It’s such a cliche for dogs that an owner who finds their dog doesn’t want to fetch is often surprised. It’s as if we expect every dog to love to fetch, simply because they are a dog. Cats, on the other hand, are not expected to play such a game. Many owners aren’t aware that some cats love to play fetch until they encounter it for themselves.
Like many aspects of feline behavior, there are complexities and exceptions to the rule. Surprised owners find themselves asking why their cat likes to play fetch.
Why does my cat like playing fetch?
If you want to be the talk of the block, or even Instagram, all you have to do is get your cat to fetch. If you haven’t seen adorable cat fetching videos, you certainly should. Of course, there’s no need to park yourself in front of a screen when your cat is doing the fetching. People will come from blocks away to see such a feat. Of course, we all wonder why a cat would fetch in the first place. Isn’t that a strictly dog thing to do?
Cat vs. Dog Temperament
Cats and dogs have very different temperaments and motivations. Cats are independent. Some enjoy affection from their owners, but they aren’t driven by a desire to please them. Cats are who they are. They can be trained, but they will always be themselves. They don’t adjust themselves to the needs of their owner. In fact, owners often find themselves being flexible to adjust to the needs of the cat.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the dog. They want nothing more than to please their owner. They will adapt themselves to the needs and desires of their owner. They are highly trainable because, in addition to treats, they are motivated by making you proud. Since we began domesticating dogs, we’ve been molding them into a suitable human companion. Domestic dogs are a far cry from their wild counterparts. They are our best friends, steady and loyal.
Cats, on the other hand, are still essentially wild. Sure, we’ve trained them to live inside and use the litter box. But the behavior of a domestic cat is very similar to that of one in the wild. They’ve retained their hunting instincts, their independence, and their ingenuity.
Understanding this fundamental difference makes it clear why dogs are the fetchers. Dogs want to please us. Chasing and catching are a part of their hunting repertoire, but bringing their catch back to us does not come naturally. Sure, they enjoy chasing the stick. They likely understand that when they bring it back, they get to chase it again. However, there’s certainly an element of human pleasing in the motivation as well.
Cats as Natural Fetchers
Cats don’t have the innate desire to please that dogs do, so it’s unlikely that they fetch because we want them to. So why do they enjoy fetching?
Fetching is actually much more in line with a cat’s natural instinct than a dogs. It’s common for a cat to hunt and then bring the catch back to the den. Your cat may have even brought a kill to you, proudly laying it at your feet or doorstep.
This is the essence of fetch. Chase, catch, and retrieve. So, a cat may be inclined to fetch for the same reason they play with string. Because it satisfies their natural hunting instinct.
Playful and Energetic
If you have a kitten, or a playful and energetic adult cat, they are more likely to engage in a game of fetch. It may be one of many games that they enjoy, simply because it’s fun.
Trained to Fetch
Cats can also be trained to fetch. Some cats are easier to train than others, and you can expect a cat to be less inclined to perform when they aren’t in the mood to do so. Still, you can train your cat to fetch.
Experts suggest using a clicker and giving the cat a treat each time you click. Begin simply, with the cat simply paying attention to the object. Eventually, you can move to tossing it and the cat going to it, and then retrieve the item.
This works best with an object the cat enjoys. Their favorite toy or a piece of crumpled paper can work well.
You can also use kibble. The cat isn’t likely to bring it back, but they will return to you for another toss. Then, the only element you need to introduce when using a toy is to get your cat to bring the toy back to you. They are already accustomed to the other steps.
Is it normal for cats to play fetch?
It’s uncommon for cats to enjoy fetch, but it isn’t a rare phenomenon. Is it normal? This depends on how you define the word normal. The majority of cats do not play fetch. However, some cats do. So, if you base normal on what the average cat does, it wouldn’t be normal behavior. However, it isn’t considered harmful or aberrant behavior, so it is normal in that sense.
Breed Makes a Difference
The majority of cats in most breeds do not play fetch. However, it is common in a few breeds. These breeds are typically large and have behaviors commonly associated with dogs.
They are commonly called puppy cats, because they seem more like puppies than cats. Common behaviors include a frequent desire or need for affection, following their owner around, and a calm placid nature. They also tend to play more like dogs, including enjoying a game of fetch.
Puppy cat breeds include the Maine Coon, Manx, Abyssinian, and Ragdoll cats. Selective breeding likely plays a role in their temperament. They are also considered highly trainable, and possess a desire to please similar to that seen in domestic canines.
Is it good for cats to play fetch?
Yes, it’s good for cats to play fetch. It offers many benefits. Of course, these benefits extend to nearly any game you play with your cat, not just fetch.
Just like humans, cats can become bored and even depressed without mental stimulation. Playing fetch gets your cat to think, and focus on a task. It can be exciting for them to chase and catch the object, and then return it to you.
Physical exercise is very important for your cat’s wellbeing. Nearly 60% of American cats are overweight or obese. Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for being overweight, so an exercise routine can help keep the pounds off.
As cats age, they tend to become less physically active. They will seek out games as a kitten, but an adult cat may need a little encouragement to get their workout on.
Playing with your cat is an excellent way to bond. The more you and your cat interact, the closer you will become. However, quality is as important as quality. When you want to bond with a child, you don’t sit down to watch the news together. You meet them on their level, through play.
It’s the same with your cat. Not all cats enjoy cuddle sessions or sleeping in your lap, but nearly all cats enjoy play. An interactive game like fetch gives an excellent opportunity to deepen the bond between you.
Reducing Unwanted Behaviors
Playtime can also help reduce, eliminate, or prevent unwanted behaviors. If your cat is scratching the furniture or even biting, they may simply be bored. Boredom leads to aggression and destructive behavior.
Playing fetch or other games with your cat is a great way to eliminate boredom, which can ease any behavioral issues they are having.
What games do cats like to play?
Fetch isn’t the only game you can play with your cat. There are many games cats like to play. They are naturally playful and curious creatures. You can use these characteristics to create games that they will love.
Puzzles provide a challenge to your cat. They are great for mental stimulation, and can help relieve boredom quickly. You can purchase puzzles from your favorite pet store, or you can make your own.
Get a shoe box and a few of your cat’s favorite toys. Cut holes in the top of the box that are just big enough to fit the different toys through. To increase the challenge level, choose toys of different shapes and sizes, so that each one will fit through only one hole.
Place the toys in the box, and tape the lid on. Then, its game on. Sit back and watch your cat work to free their toys.
Feather and String
Most cats are utterly fascinated by a feather that seems to move on its own. It’s highly visible and soft, making it an ideal toy. To play with your cat, move the feather at different speeds and positions. Hold it up high and let your cat jump to catch it. Drag it along the ground so they can chase it. You can also hide the feather underneath furniture, so the cat has to search or climb to get it.
After your cat catches the feather, give them a moment to enjoy their “kill” before the game begins again.
Hide and Seek
Hide and seek isn’t just for kids. Some cats love to play hide and seek with their owners. You can hide and allow your cat to find you. Once they learn the game, you may notice them running towards you and sprinting away to hide during the day. This is their invitation for you to seek them.
Box or Bag
Expensive cat toys are a huge market, and certainly have their place. However, cats also enjoy the simple things in life. You can create a box obstacle course. Simply make a few steps, ramps, and crawl spaces using cardboard boxes. For a less elaborate set up, just give your cat an empty box.
Paper bags can also provide lots of entertainment. You can move the bag to create movement and noise for your cat to pounce on. Your cat can also go inside the bag, while you rustle the outside.
In today’s world, everyone can get in on the tech fun. There are a huge number of apps designed for cats, but most have one of a few basic themes. Jitterbug allows your cat to catch bugs on the screen. Similar apps can include fish or mice that your cat catches. Laser pointer games allow your cat to chase the laser.
There are also creativity-based games for cats. Paint for Cats allows your cat to create their own digital masterpieces. Similar apps can include painting or even music. Perhaps your cat is the next Mozart or Picasso.
Prey games allow your cat to hunt and catch their prey. Balls are a simple version of the prey game. As your cat pounces on the ball, it begins moving again. You can also purchase motorized mice that will run from your cat, enticing them to chase and pounce on the toy.
Fun With Food
Food games can also be fun for your cat. There are a few different food toys your cat may enjoy. Puzzle feeders dispense kibble or a treat when your cat solves the puzzle, which usually means rolling or manipulating the toy until the food falls out.
Maze feeders are another option. These allow you to place kibble in a maze. The main benefit of this is that it slows down your cats meal, making it impossible for them to gobble it up too quickly.
Catnip is an herb that many cats are attracted to. Research so far is limited, but it’s thought that inhaling catnip releases happy chemicals in the cat’s brain. Think of it as their coffee or chocolate. When catnip is ingested, it seems to have a mellowing effect on the cat.
Many cats love toys with catnip. You can purchase catnip toys, or make your own. You can find catnip at your local herb store. Just place it inside a toy and watch your cat go wild. Catnip also makes a wonderful calming tea for humans.