A tabby and white cat is playing by hiding in a brown cardboard box. He is staring out of the box, waiting to pounce.

7 Ways To Entertain Your Indoor Cat: Games To Keep Your Cute One Entertained

Do you wonder how to entertain your indoor cat? Or how to play with your cat?

Every cat is different, and they have varying levels of interest and motivation for play. However, there is a fun way to play for (almost) every cat.

Cats like to play for short bursts of time; this can be frequently throughout the day or just occasionally. Some cats like to play alone (self-play) with a toy or just by running around! Others want to play with their humans (Interactive play). Generally, kittens are more playful than adult and senior cats. But with cats being the individual and wilful characters they are, you can’t make a cat play.

You can look for signs that your cat is in a playful mood, such as they begin to play with a toy, start becoming vocal, or dash about and look like they are getting ready to spring into action. This is the perfect time to play with your cat; why not try some of these fun games for indoor cats.

Chasing games

Cats are great hunters and have natural predatory instincts. Cats like to stalk and hunt small animals such as mice and birds when outside. You can try to replicate this behaviour inside by playing chase games. 

This can be as simple as wiggling a piece of string across the ground, using a feather wand, or wind up mice. Cats love chasing and catching and then playing with the toy in victory. This is a perfect hunting game for indoor cats. Be sure to let your cat win so it is an enjoyable game. Laser pens do not allow cats to win and play with their catch. Using laser pens will often make your cat lose interest and become frustrated. 

Some cats play fetch

We know dogs love to play fetch, and some cats do too. You can throw a small ball, such as a ping pong ball or one with a bell inside. You can even use a piece of paper scrunched up into a ball. Cats love the unpredictable way the ball bounces, just like a small prey animal would. Whether the ball is brought back to you depends on the cat and their mood at that moment; most of the fun is in the chase.

A tabby cat is hiding in a wardrobe with a multicoloured rubber band ball cat toy.

Whether the ball is brought back to you depends on the cat and their mood at that moment; most of the fun is in the chase.
Some cats love playing with a ball like dogs. This is a great game to play to ensure your indoor cat is exercising.


Cats like to hide in enclosed spaces to feel secure and safe. They love to hide under beds, on top of bookcases and behind sofas. If you provide your cat with a box to hide in, they will be your friend forever. This can be a simple cardboard box or a cat igloo. They love to jump in and out of boxes, roll about in them, pounce out of them as though hunting, sleep in them and scratch them. You can go one step further than a simple old cardboard box and combine a few and build a cardboard cat castle! 

A tabby and white cat is playing by hiding in a brown cardboard box. He is staring out of the box, waiting to pounce.

Imagine towers, turrets and a portcullis for your cat to explore. What cat doesn’t want to be king or queen of the castle?
Cats love to play with cardboard boxes. Having boxes and hideouts are simple ways for cats to play indoors.

Feeding toys

For cats who really love their food, you can make eating a game. In fact, for those who love their food a little too much, this can be an ideal way to burn off some extra calories. You can buy puzzles or slow feeders or make your own version. The fun here is that the cats have to use their sense of smell, paws and mouth to free the food from the feeder.

To make your own, you can use the bottom part of a cardboard egg box (the part with the dimples) and put some dry cat food in a few sections, then cover them with little cat toys, ping pong balls or scrunched-up paper. Or, you can take a toilet roll tube, poke some holes in the sides of it ( just big enough so that the food can tumble out of it), put a bit of scrunched-up paper in one end, pop some dry food in the tube and then insert another piece of scrunched up paper in the top to stop the food emptying out the ends.

Just be careful not to overfeed your cat; the food you use in puzzle feeders should be from your cat's daily allowance. Please supervise your cat when they are playing with these toys, so they don’t choke on the food or start eating the toys.

Catnip toys

Nepeta Cataria, or Catnip as it’s most commonly known, is a herb that some cats go crazy for. Not every cat responds to catnip; it depends on their genetics. Only about half of cats are excited by it. By the time your kitten is 6 months old, you will know if they are sensitive to it. Cats that do love it experience and display pure joy! They will run up to it, lick it, scratch and sometimes drool over it. You might see your cat become quite hyperactive; others become sleepy and sedate when exposed to it. The blissful experience only lasts around 10 minutes for cats.

You can pop some catnip into a sock and tie it in a knot, or you could put a handful in a paper bag and then scrunch it up into a ball for them to play with. You can grow catnip quite easily in your house to keep your cat in a constant supply of catnip. 

A close-up image of nepeta cataria or catnip. The leaves are green and have toothed edges. Small violet-coloured flowers are flowering from the top of the plant.

There are more straightforward ways to satisfy your cat’s catnip cravings; you can buy a cat toy with some catnip already inside it.
Nepeta Cataria, commonly known as catnip, is a pretty herb for which some cats go wild. This can be used in toys for some fun play.

Hide and Seek

An easy game that takes little effort and no preparation is hide and seek. Try playing hide and seek with your cat. Sneak off to a place in the house and call on your cat. They will come looking for you. This is a great way to get their minds working and get them moving. Not all cats appreciate being jumped out at and scared, so perhaps just sit in a chair in a room and don't jump out from behind a door!

Cat tricks

You can train cats to perform “come” and “sit” tricks. Not all cats are interested in this, and even the ones that are willing only to do it when they are in the mood for it.

You are actually already training your cat. You have subconsciously taught your cat that they should come through to be fed when they hear the rustle of the food bag. This is because you have repeated this routine daily, and your cat has learned when it hears a specific sound (the food container or bag opening) and then performs an action (coming to the feeding area), there is a reward (being fed). This is simple positive reinforcement, reward the behaviour you like and ignore the behaviour you don’t.

To train your cat to “come”,  hold out a tasty treat and call your cat's name; once he comes to you, give him the treat. Repeat this over and over, at different times, moving further away until your cat has learned to come to you when called. This mental stimulation and encouraging movement is beneficial to a cat's wellbeing.

Play is essential for indoor cats. Playing some fun games allows your cat to show some of its incredible natural instincts and behaviours. 

Author: Gillian Davidson,  RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse), Scotland.

Author: Gillian Davidson,  RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse), Scotland.

Gillian began working in a veterinary practice in 2007 and qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2011. Gillian has worked in various animal practices in the West of Scotland, and is particularly interested in behaviour medicine and weight management. Gillian has also been a clinical coach for student veterinary nurses for 10 years. 

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