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Playtime as exercise

Play is very important to a cat - from kittenhood right through to old age. In fact, playing with your cat is one of the most enjoyable things about owning her. It also offers great health benefits, encouraging your cat to be active, keep supple and maintain a sleek body condition. More importantly, play can help to encourage cats to express their natural hunting instincts, but safely as far as birds and mice are concerned. Your cat's playful behaviour can be adorable, endearing and fun for both of you!

Kittens start to play from about four weeks old, spending most of their time chasing and pouncing on with their littermates, their mother and owner. By the time a kitten is seven to eight weeks old, they will be transferring their attention from social play to play with inanimate objects ready to step up to ‘prey’ if they were destined to be self-sustaining. Hence, your cat's favourite games will probably be playful variations of their natural hunting instincts. However, there is no end to the variety of games and toys you can try - just see what works best with your pet…

1. Cats find wind-up toys fascinating.
2. A bucket filled with crumpled papers or ping-pong balls can make a useful distraction.
3. When your kitten attempts to stalk you, throw it a ball to chase.
4. Leave a large cardboard box on the floor for diving into and scratching at.
5. Glue several boxes together, linked by peepholes, for kitten hide-and-seek.
6. Dangle a 'fishing pole' toy with feathers or bells at the end of a string.
7. Some cats enjoy chasing and jumping at the light beams from a small flashlight or a carefully directed laser pointer.
8. Keep toys out of sight between play sessions: this stops your cat getting too familiar with the objects, so their reappearance is met with enthusiasm.
9. Never use fingers or toes as toys or you will be pounced on later!

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