7 Tips: How to Get Old Cats to Play

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Geezer Wolfie at Play

Geezer Wolfie at Play

Wake Up, Geezer Cats: It’s Time to Play!

By Pookie and Wolfie, Senior Advisors

You’d probably not toss Frisbees to your great grandpa, or chase grandma around the block, so why would you do that to your old cat? (Okay, the Frisbee is a more of a dog thing, but you get the idea.)

Myth: Old Cats Won’t Play

WandGeezerGOld cats will play – if you remember that they’re old.

Don’t expect old cats to play like they used to. Arthritic joints, stiff muscles, poor eyesight and other signs of aging change how a cat is able to play.

Why play with an old cat at all? Geezer cats sleep a lot and need their rest. But just because that lump of fur hasn’t moved for hours doesn’t mean it shouldn’t play. Change how you play with your cat, and you may find regular play keeps your senior cat younger and fitter.

“Regularly engaging your cat in moderate play can promote muscle tone and suppleness, increase blood circulation, and help reduce weight in cats that are too heavy, ” according to Petfinder.com. Plus, play is a mood-booster that helps banish boredom.

Remember: old cats don’t usually initiate play. You need to be the spark that fires up their attention and interest.

Our Senior Advisors Pookie and Wolfie offer these tips for playing with older cats:

WandGeezerC41. Warm up before starting. Let the cat wake up, get the blood flowing, and stretch a little before starting to play. Best time to play: after a cat’s done grooming herself.

2. Use soft, gentle toys. Smaller toys are less intimidating and easier on the paws. Hard toys can be painful on aging teeth and gums. Good toys: soft toys that move in the air (like our High Flyers wand toys).

WandGeezerB23. Old cat? Old prey. Jerk the toy like prey, in short bursts, but closer to the cat’s paws. Younger cats will dart across the room, but geezers may not move off the couch. Make small movements with a toy under a blanket, towel or throw rug, as if the prey is peeping out; cats of all ages love this.

4. Let the cat win…sometimes. Cats like a challenge, but one they can occasionally conquer. Near wins are good too.

WandGeezerA35. Air-play is OK! It’s fine if just the paws play. Running and jumping is not required. Older cats may just swipe with a paw or two. Or roll on their back and play with their paws in the air. They’re still mentally and physically engaged.

6. Mood-boost before play. Scent up the toy. Catnip makes some cats frisky; and freeze-dried treats, crumbled and rubbed on the toy, can entice a cat’s sense of smell, just as prey would.

7. Know when to stop. Don’t let play turn sour. Your cat will let you know when it’s tired or annoyed, so take a time-out or try again the next day, maybe with a different toy. Keep play new and fun.

Finally, reward your cat after a “prey” capture or when a play period ends. Your affection, praise, and a treat can make your cat feel rewarded. Savor the victory together.

Our High Flyers wand toys are ideal for senior cats, and fun for cats of all ages. We make them ourselves and they’re available only at Stark Raving Cat.


  1. Good advice! We have a 4 year old cat and a 16 year old. The technique for playing with each is quite different but everybody still enjoys it.
    Play is also a good way to get a timid cat to forget that they’re shy.

    • I agree, Maggie. Cats, like people, differ so much in personality. It takes some time to recognize which techniques work best, and at times a gentle coaxing helps. Just because a cat is sleeping doesn’t mean, though, that she’s not willing to play. Your pair of cats sounds like a good balance: both are adults, but one’s just young enough to keep the other moving. Thanks, and meow from dear old Wolfie and Pookie.

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