Cats will play with toys on their own and often enjoy an interactive session of play with their owners. You may also see cats playing with other cats.

“Play fighting” is a way for kittens to hone their fighting and hunting skills. This social play peaks around 3 to 4 months of age, although adult cats will still “play fight”. Both feral and pet cats may “play fight” with other cats they are bonded with or familiar with. It is fun to watch two familiar cats wrestling, chasing, and pouncing on each other.

Cats Playing with Other Cats

  • claws are sheathed
  • chirrups and trills or no vocalizing
  • no hissing or growling
  • cats will take turns chasing and being chased
  • cats will roll onto their backs
  • body language is relaxed – ears are forward


Marley and Zelda play in a cat tunnel

If your cats are inclined to play with each other, cardboard boxes, cat tunnels, furniture can be places for one cat to hide and pounce on one another.

If play gets out of hand…



Kittens and young cats often don’t seem to know when enough’s enough. Sometimes things get out of hand.

What may not be play…

  • one cat exclusively chases another
  • one cat blocks the other from going through a hall or door
  • one cat backs another into a corner

    Gus and Marley tolerate each other with the occasional spat.

What to watch for:

  • Be alert to direct stares between cats at “play”
  • Body language: ears flattened or out to the side, fur on end, lip licking
  • Body posture: aggressor may have an arched back, hair on end, slowly advance on the “victim”
  • “victim”: feet under the body, may slowly move away from the “attacking” cat
  • hissing or growling

Watch this short video of two cats who tolerate each other but are not affiliated.


You may want to manually advance the video to catch the action.  Gus (grey cat) and Marley have a brief spat that could be mistaken for play.

The two cats look to the side, then look directly at each other, then look to the side again. Their ears go out to the side, Gus lashes out.  He and Marley exchange punches, then Gus retreats and hisses.  We need to monitor this duo and ensure that conflict does not increase.


What you can do…

  • DO intercept a hostile stare or distract the aggressive cat with a wand toy or laser pointer.
  • DO have a sturdy piece of cardboard and a towel in a convenient place to help separate fighting cats
  • DO herd the cats away from each other with a sheet of cardboard into separate rooms.
  • DO isolate cats if necessary and allow them to “cool down”; reintroduce them slowly when they are calmer
  • Have a sturdy pair of leather work gloves to use with a towel as a last resort -better to herd the cats away from each other with a sheet of cardboard than try to pick them up
  • SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IF BIT!  Cat bites easily become infected
  • Consult your veterinary professional if fighting is frequent and injury to humans or other pets occurs

The domestic cat is hard wired to hunt. He is good at detecting fast motion – cats’ eyes construct around 60 visual images per second, which is 2x as fast as our human brains. He is ideally suited to detect the quick, rapid motions of the mice and other small creatures that he hunts. Hunting is part of who he is.

When the kittens are about 3-4 weeks old, the mother cat starts to bring back dead, injured or fatigued prey to allow the kittens to practice their hunting skills. Mother Cat will intervene if the kittens lose control of the live prey, otherwise she watches as they develop their hunting skills.

It’s important that we offer our cats an opportunity to engage in predatory (hunting) behavior. How do cats hunt in the wild?

  • Your cat scans the landscape.
  • She sees something moving, and goes over to that spot.
  • She hears and smells MOUSE! 
  • She stalks her prey
  • The mouse scurries away – she chases and pounces!
  • Success! She catches and eats her prize.

We are not going to release live mice into our homes deliberately, so what can we do to allow hunting in the home?

Object (Toys) Play

Playtime or hunting in the home can be interactive or it can be playing alone.

Interactive games – with us

Zelda plays with a toy mouse on a fishing pole toy.
  • Go Fish – fishing pole or wand toys
  • Chasing string
  • Catch the red dot – laser pointers
  • Treat toss – toss treats and let your cat go get them.

Start with short, fast motions to get your cat’s attention, then move to longer runs.

Put all fishing poles, strings and other interactive toys out of kitty’s reach when the play session is done

Playing on their own



Marley works the Poker Box, a food puzzle.
  • Catnip mice
  • Food puzzles
  • Boxes
  • Play Tunnels
A play tunnel for children fits large cats !



How Does Your Cat Feel when Hunting?

Human hunters report feelings of exhilaration while on the “chase”, satisfaction when capturing their quarry and frustration when they miss.
Your cat shares these emotions. Avoid toys that present frustration – they may not be popular for long.

A Frustrating Toy

The mouse squeaks as the cage rolls along but the mouse does not come out!

 I bought a toy with a mouse in a ball-shaped cage. The mouse would squeak as the ball rolled. Marley spent an hour trying to paw the mouse out of the cage without success and then left the toy alone – he had better things to do!

If the mouse in the cage had been a removable food puzzle, Marley would have had the satisfaction of “catching” the mouse and getting a treat.


Avoiding Frustration

The laser guides Gus to a treat at the end of the play session.

Try to end play sessions on a positive note.  Play should be challenging but not impossible to catch the prize! If the task is too hard, cats, like people, will give up.  For example, when using laser pointers, end the session with some “targeting” – direct your cat with the light to treats you have hidden  around the play area.


Interactive Playtime – Communicating with your cat

  • Daily interactive play time is best
  • Short, intense play sessions of 5- 10 minutes often are enough
  • It is best if these are at the same time every day, say after dinner.  This way, your cat knows what is going to happen – the routine is a way for you to communicate with him.

Keeping the hunt alive with “self play” toys



  • Rotate toys every 1-2 weeks
  • “Marinate” toys not in use in a box with catnip
  • Store the week’s toys in a box with an opening so your cat can choose the toys she wants

Cats can also engage in hunting behavior through play with other cats.  Our next blog post will look into “social play among cats”.

The Cat Friendly Home: Guiding Your Cat’s Scratching Behavior

You know that scratching is a normal cat behavior – but does she have to scratch the new sofa you spent hundreds of dollars on? Should you have her declawed?

Sharing Your Home with a Clawed Cat…

Synthetic feline pheromones can be purchased from pet stores.

To guide your cat’s scratching behavior, we have to communicate with him and let him know where to scratch.

Cats communicate in a large part by smell ( A Cat’s world: Smell)  Pheromones  are chemicals that convey messages between members of the same species – they are detected by smell. There are several feline pheromones that have been synthesized and are commercially available.



We can use facial pheromones and interdigital pheromones to guide your cat’s scratching behavior.



Getting the message across..

Feliway Classic tells your cat that this is familiar territory and there is no need to mark it – DON’T SCRATCH HERE
Feliscratch gives an olfactory as well as visual message (scratch marks) that says – SCRATCH HERE


The Plan…

  • Place a scratching post near the area that is being scratched.
  • Apply Feliscratch to the scratching post
  • Using Feliway Classic (or Comfort Zone Calming) spray, spray the areas where scratching is not desired. You may wish to spray a towel or throw and place this on or near the scratched area.
  • You will need to apply these daily for at least a week. After a week you can apply as needed.

Facial Pheromones

This pheromone is released when your cat rubs his cheeks against things, say the corner wall. He is marking the area as a safe place.

Feliway Classic and ComfortZone Calming come in diffusers and spray.

Appeasing Pheromones

There are synthetic versions of the pheromones released by the nursing mother cat. This pheromone assures the kittens,  blind at first and unable to move fast,  of their mother’s presence.  It helps the litter mates to bond together. This has practical uses – it helps keep the kittens together if Mom needs to go hunt.

Feliway Multicat and ComfortZone Multicat control come in diffusers.

Interdigital Pheromone

This pheromone is released by glands in your cat’s paws when he scratches. It helps mark boundaries and, combined with your cat’s signature scent, lets other cats know “Mr. Fuzzy was here at noon”

Feliscratch comes in a box of pipettes. The liquid in the pipettes is applied to a scratching post to encourage your cat to scratch.

Spray the scratched area with Feliway/ComfortZone


Apply Feliscratch to the scratcher you have chosen to be near the scratched place.


Marley checks out the “Feliscratched” scratcher.


Marley scratches the new scratcher.


During the Training period, you may wish to have nail caps (Soft Paws) applied to your cat’s claws. These are soft plastic caps that are glued onto your cat’s nails.

  • Applied every 4-6 weeks
  • Use permanent adhesive
  • But…some cats just don’t like them and chew them off!

Nail Trims for the Comfort and Safety of You and Your Cat…

Gently extend your cats claw.
Trim the end of the claw. Avoid clipping the pink area.
  • Start nail trimming early in life
  • Use positive reinforcement: treats, play, grooming, head rubs
  • Trim every 4-6 weeks
  • When trimming some cats, trim 1-2 nails at a time and do the trim over a week
  • As cats get older, their nails may get thicker and their joints stiffer, so they don’t groom as much. The nails can grow into the paw pad. Nail trims can improve these cats’ quality of life!


Declawing – an amputation



The Details of Declawing

  • Removal of the last bone of the cat’s toe
  • There are “good” and “bad” declaws: “good” declaws disarticulate the last (3rd) joint
  • Risk of lameness and behavior problems due to nerve damage
  • Weight is no longer supported by the junction of the 2nd and 3rd bones – it is supported by the end of the second bone which is painful.



What’s inside your cat’s toes – claw is sheathed when cat is relaxed. He must extend his claws to use them.
In a declaw surgery, the bone with the nail bed is removed.


A Final Word…


Guiding your cat’s scratching behavior can be a rewarding experience – after all, YOU are communicating with ANOTHER species!

Offer a variety of scratching stations located in strategic places:
Near doors and windows
Where the people hang out
Near the litter box
Near the sleeping area

The Cat Friendly Home: Scratching Basics

Our soft, cuddly (sometimes) kitties have some sharp ends to them – their claws! When your cat is relaxed, his claws are covered by a sheath of skin. He extends them to grab on to his favorite catnip mouse.

Your cat’s paws are sensitive to touch and pressure – she can feel the vibrations of your footsteps through her feet; she knows by feel just how hard to hold that wiggling mouse.My cat’s sense of touch

Marley holds a toy mouse tightly – his claws are extended.


Why does your cat scratch?

What’s inside your cat’s toes – claw is sheathed when cat is relaxed. He must extend his claws to use them.
  • She uses her claws to hold on to prey so it is best that they be sharp – scratching sheds old nails to allow new, sharper ones to grow in.
  • She will scratch defending herself when she feels threatened by another cat, a person,  or animal.
  • Scratching is also a way of communicating with other cats.
  • Scratching is great way to stretch!

YOU MIGHT GET SCRATCHED… when playing with your cat. Remember quick motions trigger his hunting instinct and those claws come out to hold on to the prey – which could be your hand!

  • Use toys to play with your kitty, preferably ones that keep your hands and feet out of the “line of fire”. Fishing pole toys such as Da Bird keep you safe while kitty practices his hunting skills
  • Play “dead” if you get caught in “clawed embrace”. Once he stops trying to scratch you, you can gently move the paws

YOU MIGHT GET SCRATCHED…if your cat does not want to be handled (self-defense)

  • Watch your cat’s body language –What does my cat feel?
  • Allow her to decline interactions if she is not in the mood
  • Use a towel or blanket if she is upset and you HAVE to get her

Scratching Basics: The Feline Message Board


Pheromones are chemicals that convey “messages” between members of the same species. Your cat has glands in his feet that release pheromones.



Your cat scratches a post and deposits pheromones and his own “signature scent” on it. Another cat comes by later and smells the claw marks. The pheromone smell has faded a bit, so the newcomer knows that “Mr. Fuzzy” was here earlier, say around noon.


Pheromones and communication

The Feline Message Board

The free-roaming cat is a solitary hunter. If he is injured, it will be harder to hunt and feed himself. Scratching gives cats a way of signaling each other so that they can avoid meeting and possibly fighting.



The Message Board is active for indoor cats as well as outdoor cats. Having a number of scratching posts around your home can make your cat feel secure – after all, he can check for intruders! In multi-cat homes, it may help cats “time-share” resources.

The Ideal Scratching Post…


  • Narrow upright scratching posts that are 3 feet or taller are popular
  • Cats will scratch flat surfaces as well as vertical or angled ones.
  • Sisal rope, carpet and cardboard are popular materials for scratchers 
  • Logs with the bark still on may  appeal to your cat.
  • Preferences can change – some studies showed that older cats choose carpet over sisal rope while younger cats like the sisal rope better.

Where to Put Those Scratching Posts!


  • near doors and windows (territory marking)
  • near the sleeping areas (stretching)
  • near the litter box (stretching, marking)
  • near the living area where the humans hangout (stretching, marking)
Scratching post by a patio window.


Athena checks for other scent marks as she adds her own. This post is part of a larger cat tree.


Scratching post near the litter box.

Declawed cats need scratching posts too. They still have glands in their paws that produce pheromones.  They appreciate a good stretch and the opportunity  to leave scent messages.