Why the cat’s toys cause me pain

Pip playing with his blue feather wand toy. KARIN SPICER
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Pip playing with his blue feather wand toy. KARIN SPICER

Pip, our almost-2-year-old cat, loves toys. All types.

Currently he’s enamored with plastic fish that light up and swim in a plastic fishbowl, last year’s Christmas gift. The feline watches intently as the fish swim around and around the bowl. Pip sticks his head and front paws into the bowl to try to catch one of the wigglers.

Hands down, Pip’s favorite toys are his wands – metal and wood sticks with fish wire or string with soft fabric butterflies, colorful imitation feathers and furry worms with wiggly eyes attached at the ends.

When Pip wants to play, he strategically stands in front of a metal flower container filled with his wands. He walks back and forth rubbing up against the container and the wand’s ribbons and strings. He meows loudly.

If none of those tactics engage you, he’ll pull one of the wands out of the container and drag it toward you. His favorite is a black metal wand with a wire and bright neon blue feather, fake as fake could be, attached to it.

Pip loves carrying the feather wand combo all around our house. Sometimes when we’re playing, he will catch the feather then lift his head high in the air and carry the feather as the wand it’s attached to is dragged behind him.

The cat will carry the feather downstairs to our family room, to the study and even the master bedroom.

It’s not unusual for Pip to drag one of the wands to bed with him at night. So it’s not unusual for my husband Ed and me to wake up the next morning with Pip and one or two of his wands in bed with us.

Cats that live with humans don’t need to rely on hunting for their daily meals like their feral cousins and ancestors, but behaviorist Jon Bowen told cattitude.com that they retain the instinct to hunt.

So, every time Pip tries to catch a stink bug or pounce on a spider or the wand’s fake neon blue feather, he is practicing his hunting prowess.

Bowen writes, “Carrying prey in their mouth is part of a cat’s hunting process. Once they catch whatever they were stalking, cats carry their meals to a safe place. They either move to an area where they can eat in peace, or they hide the meal so they can eat it later.”

So Pip is hiding his “catch” or his wands in the master bed every night not to eat but for later use. Probably to get us to play with him as soon as the morning alarm goes off.

According to Bowen, wild cats carry their kittens in their mouths to move them away from possible danger.

Even Pip, not being female or having cared for a litter of kittens, possesses this instinct.

Occasionally, Teddy, our 6-year-old Lab, will start to chew on one of Pip’s wands, particularly if he’s feeling jealous of attention we’re paying to Pip and his wand toy at the time. When this happens, when Pip catches the feather or wiggly worm, he will carry it, dragging the wands behind him, to a location out of Teddy’s view.

Now I know why I wake up with a metal stick poking my back.

WHY CATS NEED TOYS

1. To exercise their hunting instincts

2. Cats bore easily

3. Prevents cats from turning your things into toys

4. Exercise

SOURCE: thediscerningcat.com