Chasing and the Senior Cat: Age-Appropriate Play

One of the many joys of living with a kitten, or multiple kittens, is the game of chase. This behavior is quickly transferred to their human companions and engaging in hide-and-seek, tag, and other chase-based games is a big part of the enjoyment of having cats. Chase is also feline enrichment and plays a part in developing their minds and honing their natural instincts. 

As your cat ages, they may not play as much as they once did. Sometimes you can still get a game of chase out of them but is it safe and healthy for your older cat? Let’s take a closer look. 

Check with Your Vet

Before you do anything strenuous with your older cat, it’s always a good idea to check with your vet. Cats over the age of seven should get bloodwork done to ensure they’re in good health. Just like humans, cats tend to show signs of aging at different rates. Your vet can help you understand what’s happening with your cat and the best ways to play with them as they age. 

Engage in Shorter Play Sessions

Cat ages can’t be exactly calculated by human years, but in general cats over the age of 11 are considered senior and cats over the age of 15 are considered geriatric. However, even old cats enjoy engaging in play behaviors from time to time. The key is to keep these play sessions shorter. You may also want to play closer to the ground so your older cat does more chasing and less jumping. 

Watch Body Language Closely

Cats are very good at hiding their pain. It’s an instinct they perfected since cats in the wild are both predators and prey. Your cat can’t tell you when they’re not feeling well or if they have aching joints that prevent them from chasing, so you have to watch their body language and behavior closely. If your cat stops engaging in their favorite game of chase, you may want to take them to the vet for a check-up. 

Try New Toys

Sometimes it’s not physical health but boredom that can make an older cat suddenly stop playing. Cats need mental enrichment as much as they need physical exercise, so if Fluffy is no longer interested in her favorite mouse, maybe you should see if she wants to chase feathers on a string instead. Trying new toys, even if their interest is only temporary, can keep your older cats active.