Teach your cat to fetch – Part 5

A cat, fetching? Sure! While cats are independent creatures, they’re still domesticated animals. They have been living, playing and working with human beings for thousands of years, so while they’re not pack animals like dogs, they still know how to have a good time with people.

We often characterize cats as the charming, uppity rulers of our lives, but we don’t have to see them that way just because they aren’t needy or compliant with their owners.

Cats don’t own us, nor do we own them: this is the best attitude to adopt when applying the game of fetch to a cat.

You’re not teaching or commanding it to fetch, as you would a dog, you’re convincing it to fetch. You’re showing it what’s so fun about the game of fetch, and making sure it knows what you mean. It should want to play fetch for the same reasons you do! The goal isn’t to show the cat something new, it’s to nourish the fetching-conducive traits already present in your cat until it plays the game with you.

Consider yourself a pruner of your cat’s natural behavior.

Almost all cats, especially females, and of females, especially kittens, can play fetch. Kittens are more boisterous and energetic, and while all cats are used to carrying things in their mouths, females have a special knack for carrying both prey AND their young. So if you want to train a cat to fetch, start with a female.

First, you need to know your cat’s favorite kind of toy – and this toy does not have to be anything special or expensive. Try different toys, like a small toy mouse, a crumpled piece of paper (the extra bonus of crumpled items is that the crumpling usually gets the cat’s attention), a tinfoil or cellophane ball, or a plastic bottle cap.

Make sure the toys are small enough to be carried in the cat’s mouth, and throw them around to see if your cat chases them. If you ever notice the animal carrying any particular toy around naturally, that’s your cue! Use that toy to begin showing your cat the game of fetch.

If you have multiple cats, try to isolate the one you want to play fetch with, minimizing distraction. Wiggle the toy until it has your cat’s attention, and let the cat play with it a while. Sit close by while it plays.

You may notice, when observing kittens, that they seem to play jokes on themselves once in a while – they’ll pounce on a toy, attack it, then get up and leave it to “see” if it moves. Then they’ll (accidentally?) nudge it with a hind leg so that it moves or makes noise. The kitten pounces, and the

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