Why doesn’t my cat want to play?


When you shake a toy at a cat and it snubs your efforts to engage it in play, it can be quite disheartening. After all, cats are supposed to be ever-playful even into old age.

Don’t fret! All cats have their lazy moments, though sometimes it is the type of play on offer that’s to blame.

Cats will stop playing if you’re not playing with them in the right way. You must take into account that different cats like different types of play. A game that excites one cat doesn’t always spark interest for another. Occasionally, even the most playful cat just isn’t in the mood for fun.

Cats need encouragement to play sometimes

As play is the perfect way to keep a cat’s mind and body healthy, it should be encouraged to participate in playful activities on a daily basis.

If you have a cat that’s refusing to play, don’t give up trying. Instead, evaluate what might be making it behave lethargically.

Kitten ignoring a ball

5 reasons why cats won’t play

They are bored of playing at the moment

When you pay with a cat, bear in mind that cats naturally exhibit short bursts of energy followed by a period of energy conservation.

Play should mimic hunting by encouraging a bit of stalking, a run and pounce, tossing a toy about, and then a rest period. After a few rounds, a cat will let you know it’s had enough ans stop participating.

As soon as a cat of any age begins to pant during play, let it have a rest to fully recover.

Your cat is not playing as it’s old

As cats reach their senior years, they are less likely to tear about after toys. Some still do but others prefer a slower pace of life. You can still encourage play in older cats but don’t exhaust them.

Some older cats may suffer from conditions such as arthritis or heart murmurs.

You can still spark their interest in playing but they may choose to just sit and swipe at a toy on a stick. This is absolutely fine as a play activity.

Your cat is not playing as it’s unwell

Various health conditions can prevent a cat from feeling like playing. Worms, fleas, Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are just a few.

If your cat seems in pain peeing and has lost its appetite it might have a UTI and you should really get it checked out by VET.

Keep your cat’s flea and worming treatments up to date to ensure it doesn’t lose its motivation to play because of pesky parasites.

Wrong type of play is the problem

Some cats like toys that they can leap at or stalk and pounce such as wands with toy birds or mice attached.

Go Cat teasers are a favorite with our 4 cats and are conveniently available on Amazon. You a variety of attachments too. Here’s a link to check the current price.

Other cats prefer fetch-type games where you toss a favorite toy for them to bound after and retrieve.

Keep play fresh by alternating your cat’s toys regularly and ensure you dedicate quality time to stimulating your cat every day.

Your cat is anxious and doesn’t feel like playing

All sorts of things can lead to cat stress and it is definitely something that can prevent a cat from wanting to play.

Moving house, acquiring a new pet, or changing your cat’s environment are all factors that can make a cat feel anxious.

Give your cat time to adjust to new situations and keep trying to gently persuade it to play. Eventually, it should adjust and revert to its usual playful ways.

If it doesn’t, speak to your vet about ways to help your cat regain its confidence.

Tortoiseshell Maine Coon surrounded by toys

When do cats stop being playful?

Kittens are ever playful and it’s hard to imagine they will ever slow down. But they will eventually, and this can be a gradual process from the age of 6 months.

If you don’t encourage your young cat to keep playing, there’s a chance it will stop being playful altogether and will lose out on all the benefits that play affords.

How to encourage cats to play

There are endless ways to encourage a cat to keep active through play. You can purchase a variety of toys such as cat teasers, wands, balls, toy mice, catnip toys, and interactive toys.

Here are some quick explanations of these toys and how to use them:

Cat teaser/wand

These are made from a stick and a piece of string with a small toy attached. You can swing them through the air for your cat to leap at or pull them across the ground to encourage pounce on.

You’re basically encouraging your cat to mimic the way it would hunt birds or mice. Make sure you allow your cat the satisfaction of catching its “prey” every so often.

Cat balls

Small light-weight balls such as table tennis balls are ideal. Cats love the random way these move and bounce, and will go crazy batting them from paw to paw.

You can also get crinkly balls which make a lovely noise, balls with bells inside, and many more. They are a simple yet effective cat toy.

Toy mice

Little soft toy mice are a must. Cat’s will chase, fetch and carry these as if they have really caught a real mouse.

Expect to find these dropped in food dishes, litter boxes, and under every chair in the house. You may also be brought one as a present – especially at night when you are sound asleep.

Catnip

Most cats love catnip though some don’t respond to it. A cat’s response to catnip is through inherited trait and some cats lack the gene that causes this.

Kittens often don’t react to catnip until they reach 6 months of age and the affect can be lost on senior cats.

But when cats do react to catnip, it is a great way to get them excited and ready to play. In fact, a cat on catnip could be described as hyperactive!

After 15 minutes put catnip toys away for another day or your cat cold get overexcited and exhausted. It might also become desensitized to it.

Interactive toys

From lasers to remote-controlled toys to intelligence puzzles, there is an abundance of these to choose from.

Many of these toys don’t require your interaction so are ideal for entertaining your cat of your are busy.

Red tabby Maine Coon in a pop-up play cube

Cat tunnels and pop-up play cubes

We invested in both of these for our new kittens and they have been a hit with them. They play in them every day, hiding pouncing, and even move them from room to room!

Both are great value for money and available on Amazon. Here’s a link to the cube and this is the tunnel. I highly recommend both.

Homemade toys

Cats will play with all sorts of things that you have around the home, meaning there is no need to invest in expensive toys.

Scrunched up paper, paper bags, feathers, and string are just a few examples.

Outside play is ideal

When a cat has safe access to the outside world, its senses are ignited. A cat will amuse itself for hours in a garden, watching birds and insects, listening for mice in long grass, and investigating every little sound it picks up.

If a cat has lost interest in playing, it can develop a new zest for this after a session of exploration outside. It’s as if its inner kitten is rewoken.

Types of Cat Play

Cat play falls into 4 types:

  • Object Play – Where a cat plays with anything that it considers a toy. It will chase, paw, claw, and catch during this type of play which is usually initiated by movement or noise.
  • Social Play – This type of play involves another cat or a person, for example, when kittens in a litter play together or when a kitten can’t resist attacking your feet in bed. This type of play is more common in kittens and junior cats.
  • Self Directed Play – This is the type of play a cat indulges in when you’re not there to amuse it. You might see your cat chasing its own tail or pouncing on one of its toys and moving it all around a room.
  • Locomotory Play – This involves movement in changeable directions just for its own sake. Sometimes this is a solo activity and sometimes it involves another cat. A cat might tear excitedly about the house or garden, jump up things, do U-turns, and all for no obvious reason. If you can get close enough, you will notice its pupils are dilated.

Why doesn’t my cat want to play? Conclusion

It’s not unusual for a cat to resist playing from time to time. It isn’t that it doesn’t want to play with you, it’s more that you need to reignite its passion for play.

Play doesn’t have to be frantic, it just has to entertain a cat and invoke any amount of movement.

Some cats are more laid back about play than others, and if your is one of them, there might not be much you can do about it. However, a change of scenery and toys can help.

Jane Pettitt

Hi. I'm Jane Pettitt and I co-own petsKB with my husband, Matt. I've always been crazy about animals and have shared my whole life with cats, We currently live with 4 gorgeous Maine Coons and have 25 years of experience with this breed. There's not much we can't tell you about them. We've also owned dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish, mice, and tortoises. All of our articles draw on the extensive pet knowledge base we've built up throughout our lives as pet lovers.

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