New research shows that cats enjoy playing fetch as long as they can control the rules

In an online survey, we asked cat owners about their cats’ fetching behavior. In an online survey, we asked cat owners who fetch their cats about the behaviour. Most of these cats (94.4%) had never been taught to fetch and were very young when their owners noticed.

These cats were fetching on average for four years at the time of our study. There were many variations – some cats had never played fetch before, and others had done so for years.

What we learned

We found that cats like to be the ones in charge of fetching. Owners report that cats who initiate fetching sessions are more enthusiastic. The cats in this study had both more fetching sessions each month and more retrievals of the object during a single session.

The majority of cats in our sample (86%) were mixed breeds. Siamese cats were the most prevalent purebreds (22,5%), confirming their reputation for being fetchers.

Fetching cats prefer to play fetch using toys like catnip and imitation mice. They also took advantage of their environment and would bring things like crumpled-up paper, hair ties, or bottle caps.

Some cats like to play with crumpled-up paper. Pocket Canyon Photography/Shutterstock

Owners reported a wide range of fetching behaviors. Some cats are the first to bring an object to their owners, while others will respond when their owner throws it first. Some cats will only get an object halfway back. Some cats are picky about the toys they play with and will only get the thing back if it is in a certain area or at a specific time.

Playful cats

They look like they are hunting when cats play. Chasing their prey, biting it, jumping, and stalking the object or animal of choice are examples. Cats are naturally inclined to hunt, and they need a way to express this behavior.

Playing with cats can have important benefits in terms of preventing aggressive behavior towards humans and as a substitute for predation against live animals.

Play sessions can help owners learn more about their cats’ needs, including how long they play, and strengthen their bond. Playfulness is most common in young cats, with both objects and their littermates. We don’t really know how adult cats play compared to kittens and young cats because the research on adult cats is limited.

There has not been much research on the relationship between cats and owners. However, certain studies have revealed that this is a very important relationship. A study conducted in Sweden showed that cats were more likely to seek social contact after 30 minutes of being left alone. They coped with the situation well but changed their behavior when their owners returned.

Playtime can be good for cats. Viacheslav Lópatin/Shutterstock

Owners should set aside time each day to play with their cats. It’s enough to play with your cat for a short time every day. And it doesn’t even have to be fetch. Cats will likely enjoy all types of play if they are happy to play fetch at their own pace. They prefer toys with features that resemble prey, such as toys that can be broken or pulled apart or toys that move erratically.

During a play session, owners can understand and learn what their cat’s behavior signals mean. If a cat wants to play, it may bring a toy or sit near a toy while staring at its owner. Cats may want to end a play session by lying down, walking out of the area, or not chasing a toy.

Owners who can read their cat’s body language and understand when to begin or stop a game will find that the cat enjoys the experience. This may lead to more opportunities for play and even fetch in the future!

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