What reaction does my cat expect while playing with me?

by Olga
(New York)

My cat seems to have this chasing "game" that he wants me to play with him, but I don't know how he expects me to react. Does anyone know anything about animal behavior and how they usually play?

Let's say we are both in the living room. He starts bouncing all over me and trying to attract my attention. When he's sure that I'm all focused on him, he jumps away, then runs into another room and hides from me.

What does he expect me to do? Chase after him? Find him right away? Pretend like I am looking for him but can't find him? Crawl up to him and then jump at him?

Sometimes it works in reverse: I run away from him and hide. He chases after me and then crawls slowly to the place where I'm hiding and then bounces at me.

What should my reaction be? Run away again? Start a play fight with him? (I normally just grab my little hunter into my hands and start kissing him all over, but I don't think he quite approves of such playing strategy).

I know this sounds stupid, but this is my first cat and I never thought a bond like that could be possible between humans and animals and it just really amazes me that he thinks I'm a cat just like him and tries to play with me like that. I'd like to reinforce that behaviour by reacting in a way he understands and in a way cats normally react.

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by: Anonymous

Cats all learn how to hunt and stuff in the wild by playing the chase and attack game. They have different techniques for hunting prey. So basically she's training and playing like kit at the same time, but she only thinks it's fun, so act the same way and mimic her actions. Stalk like a panther, run like a cheetah and surprise like a leopard.

I second that..
by: KNG

I second that and this is coming from a first time cat owner and been so for only a month. My 5 month old male cat just started this "chase me" game a couple of weeks ago.

At first I wondered if he was afraid of me. But now I am catching on that he is just trying to get me to play. I can't do what another cat would do but I do try to imitate his behavior for the fun of it.

I run after him, and sneak up on him if he is hiding. He will jump out at me sometimes. It's fun.

Chase him back!
by: Kurt (Admin)

Amazing, isn't it? You have a very interactive cat there, Olga, so I say chase him back.

When cats play like this together, they often take turns trading roles as predator and prey. Sometimes they wrestle, sometimes they just chase. For many years I had three cats in the house, so I got to observe a lot of this behavior and join in.

Priscilla used to initiate the chase game with me quite a bit. We would chase each other back and forth and she would sometimes try to trip me like a cheetah trips a gazelle. When it was my turn to chase, I would say "gonna getcha!" After a while all I had to do was say that and that would start the game. Sometimes, I would hide, then stick my head out and whisper the words a couple of times to get her going.

So, chase him, sneak up on him, mirror his behavior towards you.

As for fighting with him, if you encourage your cat to claw and bite your hands, there's a risk that when a hand (perhaps yours, your child's, your guest's) reaches out to pet him, he'll be conditioned to bite and claw. Instead, get a catnip cigar, a Kong Wubba toy, or a string type toy (Da Bird or a mouse on a string) and offer that as something to attack at the end of the chase.

By the way, there's some research that suggests that the more you respond to your cat's requests for interaction, the more your cat will respond to your requests. I don't know if that applies to play sessions like this, but I thought I'd throw that out there.

Keep in mind that cats are sprinters, and often 15 minutes of exercise is more than enough. If he finds a place to lie down and begins grooming quite a bit, he may just be overly excited, or that may be an indicator that it's time to stop.

I hope that helps! I moved your question under cat behavior since it's a good fit here.

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