International Cat Day 2023 – make it a Purrfect Play Day!

Just five minutes of dedicated playtime a day will do wonders for the health and wellbeing of your BFF (best feline friend) From curious kitten to confident cat, play remains an important part your favourite feline’s day throughout their life. As well as enriching the human/feline connection, playtime is a brilliant way for cats of all ages to keep fit,
Featured image for International Cat Day 2023 – make it a Purrfect Play Day!
3rd August 2023

Just five minutes of dedicated playtime a day will do wonders for the health and wellbeing of your BFF (best feline friend)

From curious kitten to confident cat, play remains an important part your favourite feline’s day throughout their life. As well as enriching the human/feline connection, playtime is a brilliant way for cats of all ages to keep fit, lean and healthy, as well as keeping their brain alert and active.

In recognition of the importance of playtime for cats, to mark this year’s International Cat Day, feline wellbeing charity International Cat Care’s (ICC) theme for 2023 is ‘Purrfect Play Every Day’.

Originally set up in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), International Cat Day takes place on 8 August every year and is a day to raise awareness for cats and learn about ways to help and protect them.

The feelgood factor of play

Dr Sarah Ellis, Head of Cat Mental Wellbeing and Behaviour at ICC, says: “The theme for the special day is about getting owners to play with their cats for five minutes a day. Our kitties benefit in so many ways from play, improving their physical and mental wellbeing.

We humans also get a boost from watching our adorable cat friends in action. Dr Ellis adds: “Watching our cats leap through the air and chase their favourite toys definitely gives us the feel-good factor.”

But did you know that playing with your cat isn’t just fun, it also has lot of other benefits – some of which might surprise you.

How often should you feed your cat?  Once a day? Twice a day? Or, more than that? Find out why little and often suits most cats – and the reason why play should be part of your feeding routine >> 

Why do cats play?

In Your Cat magazine Dr Ellis reveals just some of the reasons why play is so important:

  • Play provides a safe outlet to perform predatory behaviours, such as stalking, chasing, pouncing, and biting. For cats, who are genetically programmed to hunt, these behaviours are essential to meet their needs as a species.
  • In the wild, cats that rely solely on hunting for their food can spend up to 50% of the day hunting – eating 10 to 20 prey to meet their daily calorie requirement. Despite our pet cats being well-fed, they still retain that natural motivation to hunt. It’s almost like they didn’t get the memo that food will be provided daily! This is because cats are solitary survivors that don’t rely on the support of other cats, and therefore hunting is a solitary activity.
  • If a hunting trip is unsuccessful, the cat won’t eat, which is why cats will still hunt when they aren’t hungry – better to be safe than sorry! Because of this, cats are incredibly opportunistic; if they encounter prey, even unintentionally, they will instantly switch into predatory mode. Though our pet cats are fortunate to have their nutritional needs met through daily feeding of a balanced cat food, play is required to fulfil their welfare need to perform this natural hunting behaviour.
  • Play is particularly important for indoor cats whose only outlet for predatory behaviour is through toys. Without regular play, our hands and feet also risk becoming unwanted targets, especially from kittens and younger cats that are most likely to initiate play.
  • However, we shouldn’t assume that older cats don’t enjoy or need to play, just because they may not initiate it. Remember, cats are opportunistic, so if the opportunity isn’t presented, our older cats may not engage. But the toss of a ping pong ball or the swooping of a feather toy on the end of the wand can see even the oldest of cats instantly switch into play mode! Short play sessions can also help with ageing joints and muscles (just be sure to speak to your vet first if your cat has been diagnosed with arthritis or a condition affecting their movement to ensure this is suitable for them).


Dr Mikel Delgado of International Cat Care’s Feline Wellbeing Panel shares these top tips:

  • Toys that are left lying on the floor are ‘dead’. They are boring. Fun toys are like prey! They are usually small and quiet, and they move!
  • Playing is an interactive experience: a simulated hunting experience that gives cats physical exercise and stimulates their brains. We tailor our play to our individual cat’s needs. Are they a generalist or a specialist?
  • Playing is also a way to bond with our cat. Not all cats like to be cuddled.
  • Make play a daily habit or activity. For example, before their dinner or bedtime, and whenever they have the zoomies! Just as dogs need to go out for walks and to sniff, cats need enrichment and shouldn’t be sleeping all day.

Have you played with your cat today? Download this free poster for lots more top play tips >>

What are the key benefits of playtime for your cat?

Dr Ellis reveals the amazing things regular playtime can do for your cat:

  • Play reduces hunting behaviour. Owners whose cats have outdoor access are sometimes concerned that playing with their cats will make them hunt more. Fortunately, the opposite is actually true! Researchers from the University of Exeter found that owners who played with their cats for just 5 to 10 minutes every day with a wand toy and a toy mouse, reported that their cats captured and brought home 25% less prey! And by seeing those predatory behaviours close up – the leaping, pouncing, and batting — we get to see what magnificent and skilled athletes we have in our homes.
  • Play encourages exercise. There is also no doubt that regular active play helps keep our cats in tip-top physical condition. All that stalking, chasing, leaping, and pouncing helps maintain a healthy bodyweight. For those cats that have become overweight, play can be a vital component of a weight loss programme. One study found that a daily 15-minute session of intense play using a variety of toys, combined with other weight loss initiatives, that motivated the cats to move for food, led to significant weight loss in just four weeks.
  • Play reduces problem behaviours. A recent survey of cat owners found that when owners reduced opportunities to play from their cats, they saw an increase in attention-seeking behaviour, vocalisation, destructive behaviour, aggressive behaviour, and reclusive behaviour. This highlights just how important the opportunity to play is for cats. Without it, problems can arise, which at the very least may be frustrating for you, but at worst, represent significant welfare concerns for your cat.
  • Play strengthens the human animal bond. Finally, play isn’t just important for your cat’s well-being, it also has many benefits for us humans. It creates a beautiful bonding experience where both cat and owner can have fun together, but it’s important to play safely for everyone involved. The use of long wand toys, where the toy on the end of the wand is well away from hands, is a perfect option for safe play where even children can get involved without the worry of being scratched or bitten.


International Cat Care has compiled this handy list of cat etiquette:

  • Let your catdictate the pace of the relationship and always wait for your cat to make the first move.
  • Don’t disturbyour cat when he or she is asleep or resting.
  • Ignore your catif he or she is perched on a high place, like a shelf or cupboard. This respects their desire at that time to watch without being seen.
  • A private spotfor rest isn’t private if you disturb your cat while there, so respect these places of sanctuary.
  • Less is morein the cat world – don’t overdo the petting.
  • Don’t automatically stareat your cat when they come into the room – most cats like to feel they can move around without always being the centre of attention.

What’s for dinner? After all that playtime, every cat deserves a delicious, nutritious dinner. At Burgess, all our cat food is made using premium ingredients and is high in protein, to ensure excellent quality and superior taste to help keep your cat happy and healthy – from kitten, to adult and mature and our award-winning variety for neutered cats.

CARE MORE Get more advice on caring for your cat from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care. It's all here >>

Is your cat a Burgess cat? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.

GOT A CAT QUESTION? Whatever your feline related query, we've got some fascinating answers for you >>

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