I always thought my human was kind of strange, but now I think she’s really gone mad: she wants me to hunt inanimate objects! She keeps tossing plastic balls at me, and these little pieces of catnip-scented cloth, sewn to vaguely resemble the mice I like catching in my garden out back. Needless to say, I am not the least bit interested in these foolish things. After a few weeks of my ignoring them, she came home with this bunch of feathers on a string. That got my attention until the first time I caught it and realized that there was no bird inside the feathers. It wound up annoying me more than anything else. What gives? And how can I get my human to stop wasting my time?
Dear Harassed Hunter,
There might be several reasons for your human’s curious behavior. Maybe she has seen you hunt and thinks your form could use some improvement, so she is trying to make you practice, the same way human hunters do target practice. To be perfectly honest, though, I don’t think that is the reason. Humans just aren’t that creative. It is probably the opposite reason: she does not like you catching mice and whatever else you find in your garden and she is trying to convince you that these fake bits of prey are just as much fun (which they aren’t). I mean, I actually enjoy cat toys, but given the choice I would much rather play with a live lizard! If this is the case, you should show her the error of her ways by bringing home prey while it is still alive and demonstrate what the thrill of the hunt is really about! Eventually your human will realize that her toys pale in comparison and she’ll give up trying to get you to use them. That is, unless she has brought them home for the third reason: she read in some cat book that playing with cat toys is a good way for humans to bond with their cats. For a lot of kitties (and I am one of them), this is true, but there are others (like you) who believe that play and prey are not only synonymous, but that the only kind of good play involves live prey. The cat before me was like that. As my human used to say, “She plays for keeps.” But she was utterly devoted to my human and enjoyed just being around her and laying on her chest while she read. So here is where some human training comes in for you: when your human pulls out those annoying toys, make yourself scarce. Just ignore them and leave the room as if they don’t even exist. You choose when you want to spend time with your human, and make it very clear that you consider it your special time with her by headbutting, purring, grooming her hair (like the cat before me used to do to my human), or whatever you enjoy. And of course, that will always be when there are no stupid playthings around. Eventually your human will realize that you two don’t need toys to share a good time.