Are you envious of your friends who schedule meetups at the dog park with their pups? We feel your pain. Just because cats don't leave the house as often as dogs do, that doesn't mean they can't make feline friends. Cat play dates are a real thing and are steadily increasing in popularity. So call up your cat owner buddies to schedule a successful cat play date with our step-by-step guide and hot tips.
What Even Is a Cat Play Date?
A cat play date is exactly what it sounds like; a rendezvous where two or more cats get together to play. Not only is a play date great for socializing you cat, but there are other benefits, such as enrichment, exercise, and mental stimulation. Experts agree that younger cats and kittens over 8 weeks old are the best candidates for play dates, but adult cats can enjoy them, too.
How to Plan Your Cat's Perfect Play Date
If you've ever considered setting up a play date for your cat, it's actually a lot easier than you think. Go about it the right way to avoid any complications, and you'll both have a blast.
1. Find an Aligned Playmate
Alright, it's time to fulfill your fantasy of being a "kitty matchmaker." Reach out to local friends and family members with cats and learn a bit more about their personalities. Your goal is to find a cat who has a similar temperament to yours so they get along and have a great time.
It's best to start with cat play dates that involve just two cats. Once both are comfortable, you can slowly start growing the group.
2. Get the "All Clear" From the Vet
Both cats should be healthy before you introduce them to each other. If one cat isn't feeling well, a boisterous play session probably isn't the best thing for them. Not to mention, parasites and viruses can easily be transmitted through contact. Make sure your vet gives both cats the thumbs up before you proceed.
3. Choose a Safe and Neutral Location
Cats are territorial creatures, so it's not a good idea to bring a stranger cat into your home for the play date. Instead, pick a new space where both cats can be on neutral ground. This can be the house of a friend who doesn't have any pets, or another indoor space. Make sure it's secure and safe so that neither cat can escape if they get spooked.
Slow and steady is the name of the game when introducing your cat to the idea of play dates. This approach will keep their stress at a minimum.
4. Bring All Necessary Supplies
Of course, you'll need your cat, but there are a few other things you should bring along to your cat play date.
- Litter pan with litter: When you gotta go, you gotta go. Make sure all cats have somewhere they can do their business.
- Water dish or fountain: Keep the kitties hydrated with fresh drinking water. Water-loving cats might even enjoy playing with running water during the get-together.
- Pheromones: Cat-appeasing pheromones can help keep cats calm and even reportedly help cats bond, so a spritz might be beneficial while introducing two cats.
- Toys: What's a play date without toys? Grab some crinkle balls, wand toys, laser pointers, or whatever the cats enjoy.
5. Don't Force the Meeting
When it's finally time to bring the cats together, release each cat on opposite sides of the room. Make sure you have two people: one with each cat, to reassure them. Allow the cats to approach each other if and when they wish.
How long is a cat play date? Aim to keep them fairly short at first. Fifteen to 20 minutes should be plenty of time the first few times you meet up, then increase the duration if you feel like the cats are enjoying themselves.
6. Keep an Eye on Their Body Language
Even as the cats start playing and appear to have a great time, keep an eye on their body language. Remove one or both cats are any point if you notice signs of stress or aggression.
If you want to make cat play dates a regular activity, be consistent! Schedule weekly or monthly meetups with the same playmate.
Importance of Feline Socialization
Socializing cats early in life will help them grow into confident and friendly adults. Ideally, kittens should be introduced to other cats, humans, dogs, and other pets between the ages of 2 and 8 weeks, which is the critical socialization period. But that can be tricky because most cats don't go home until they're 12 weeks or older.
Still, if you have an older kitten or an adult cat, it's not too late to socialize them. Getting them used to different environments and meeting other cats can help make them more adaptable. They won't be as likely to get stressed out when they're faced with these new experiences in the future. Plus, physical activity can keep them at a healthy weight, and mental stimulation through playing is great enrichment.
This Is Your Sign to Set Up a Cat Play Date
Have you always dreamed of introducing your cat to your buddy's cat? It's absolutely possible and a lot of fun when done the right way. Reach out to a fellow cat owner who is in the same boat as you and get socializing!