Posted on by Land of Meow

Land of Meow - Kitten playing with ball

Have you ever heard people say “cats will do what they want and humans just have to accept it”? Or maybe you have seen a talent show on TV and there is a cat playing fetch, sitting on command or walking on a leash, and you think "that’s great but my cat would never do that". If you do, you are not alone. Teaching your cat to play fetch is much easier than you might think. All you need is some space, a few treats and a bit of patience.

It’s important to provide stimulation for your cat both physically and mentally. When you engage them in play that has a purpose, you achieve both. Here are seven easy tips to get you playing fetch with your adorable furball and enjoying a game that is fun for both of you.

1. The Space

The first thing to consider is the space you want to train your cat in. It should be free of other distractions and relatively small so that your cat is forced to focus on the ball.

2. Choosing the best Toy

No cat is the same. Just like humans they have individual personalities, and this should be taken into account, especially if your cat has a lazy streak and you might need a bit more effort to engage them. Many cats are happy with small balls, but some prefer stuffed animals or the crunchiness of wadded up paper.

3. Choose the Right Time of Day

Make sure that you choose a time of day when your cat is awake and alert. Trying to wake them from a cosy nap in a warm sunny spot and expect them to please fetch is more likely to elicit a few bites rather than play.

4. The Behaviour Reward

Treats are the easiest and most effective way of engaging initial interest in the game. Make sure to chose healthy treats, or limit the amount that you give to your cat. You want to foster physical exercise, not given them a weight problem.

5. Linking the Behaviour to the Reward

This step can have its own sub-steps. If your cat is already one that chases after balls, then you simply need to provide them with a treat when they bring the ball to you. They’ll catch on soon enough. However, if your cat is new to the concept of fetch, you may need to start with simpler steps.

  • Roll the ball and place a treat on top of, or near it. The aim is to associate the ball with a treat for your cat. Once your furball learns that the ball is linked with treats, they will start to approach the ball of their own accord.
  • Once your cat has become more interested in the ball you can start to initiate play. Roll the ball whilst your cat is watching and then place the treat near it. This will encourage your cat to chase the ball.
  • Now that you have your cat chasing the ball the last step is teach your cat to return the ball to you. As your cat chases the ball they are bound to move it around looking for the treat. Simply place yourself in the direction that the ball is moved to, and voila your cat will now learn that moving the ball toward you will gain them a treat.

6. The Value of the Toy

It is important that you put the toy away when you’re not playing with it. Once your cat learns to associate the game of fetch with treats, it would undermine the training if the toy was inconsistent in the training period. Later on when the cat associates the toy with you and fun then it is less of an issue.

7. Make it Fun

Your cat isn’t likely to be interested in playing fetch for hours on end. Its best to start with five minutes at a time and then assess how your cat is responding to the game before extending the play time.

 Remember – the game should be fun for you and your cat. If you take the fun element away, then your cat will quickly lose interest and go back to their cosy spot in the sun.

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