Whether it’s chasing a laser pointer, climbing trees, or burying your face in the carpet after an epic fail at cat video games, cats are consistently drawn to activities that will challenge their natural instinct for play. In other words, cats love to play. So why does playing keep them so entertained?
Looking back through the history of domesticated cats, there is evidence that suggests that the behaviors we recognize as “play” were actually first instinctive and evolved over time. This means that your kitty’s favorite pastimes might not be all about fun after all — they could just be another example of intelligent and adaptive behavior.
Or better yet, it might mean you have some excellent new games to play with your feline friend! Here are nine of the most popular activities that cats enjoy playing because they evolved to discover things by doing them…
Pounce and scratch game
If you’ve ever watched your cat pounce on a toy to give it a quick sniff, then scratch at it with his claws, you’ve seen this behavior in action. Cats are known to pounce on objects because they’re searching for moisture — a natural process known as olfaction — that would signal the presence of an interesting smell.
By scratching an object, they’re not only marking it as a familiar location, they’re also adding to the texture of the item, which might improve the smell they notice next time they sniff it. Scratching is a natural way for cats to sharpen their claws and keep them physically stimulated. In addition, felines also use scratching as a way to relieve stress and to explore the world around them.
And while scratching might seem like a random behavior, it actually has a purpose. Research suggests that scratching helps cats identify boundaries in the environment, such as marking the edges of their litter boxes.
Depending on the type of terrain your kitty lives in, scratching can also help your feline explore the potential dangers lurking on your property. So when your cat pounces on something or scratches an object with his claws, he’s actually exploring his world and marking his territory.
Chase laser pointers
If you own a cat, you’ve probably seen your feline chase a laser pointer around the room. This behavior might seem random at first, but remember that cats have been “chasing” light sources for thousands of years. In fact, this activity is a natural and adaptive behavior that’s been around since the domestication of cats.
To understand why your furry friend loves chasing a laser pointer, you have to look at the history of domesticated cats. Researchers believe that cats lived alongside humans as early as 10,000 BC in places like ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. This means that even though laser pointers might seem like a modern invention, they evolved right alongside your feline friend!
Hide and jump game
If your cat loves to hide and jump out from around couches and curtains, it’s likely because it developed this behavior as a natural, instinctive way for your kitty to explore the world. In fact, cats have been hiding and jumping since the domestication of the species — so it’s not only a cat thing! The first step to understanding your cat’s hide-and-seek behavior is to think about how we humans evolved over time.
The process of evolution is a continuous change in our biological make-up that can be observed in living things like plants and animals. When you look at the history of cats and their relationship with humans, it’s clear that this is a smart trait that has been passed down through time.
Cats are often associated with humans because they’ve lived alongside us for so long, which means that they’ve probably been able to learn to survive and thrive in our modern world without many of the natural predators that have been removed from the environment. This is yet more evidence that your cat’s curiosity and play behaviors are actually very adaptive!
If your cat loves to hide and then pounce on you when you look for him, it might be because your furry friend is an expert at one of the oldest games in the book. In some cultures, hide-and-seek has been played for thousands of years — so it’s not just a feline thing!
In fact, it’s believed that humans also developed a version of hide-and-seek as long ago as 2.6 million years ago. This means that hide-and-seek is one of the oldest games in the history of our species, which seems like a lot of evidence to support the idea that it’s a natural behavior!
Tug of war with you
If your cat loves to play tug of war with you, then it’s likely because this is a behavior that has been around since the domestication of cats. In fact, cats have been pulling on human’s tails since the ancient times!
There are a few different theories about how cats learned the art of tugging on human tails, but it’s likely that domestication played a big part in this behavior. After all, human and feline DNA is incredibly similar — so it’s not surprising that your kitty would pick up on some of your own tendencies!
Bury your face in the carpet game
If your cat loves to bury his face in a piece of carpet after a failed attempt at playing fetch, it’s likely because your kitty has been practicing this behavior since being domesticated. In fact, it’s believed that cats domesticated themselves. This means that your cat’s tendency to bury his face in the carpet is a natural behavior that has been passed down through the generations.
Run and hide game
If your cat loves to pounce on items and then run and hide, it’s likely because this is a behavior that’s been with your kitty since the domestication of cats. Cats have been running since the domestication of the species, which means that your feline friend’s tendency to run and hide is a natural, instinctive behavior that’s been around since the beginning of time.
Sumo wrestling to stand-up game
If your cat loves to roll around in the dirt and play with rocks, then it’s likely because this is a behavior that’s been passed down through the generations since the domestication of cats. In fact, research shows that cats domesticated themselves, which means that your cat’s love of dirt and rocks is a natural behavior that has been passed down through the generations.
All these activities that your cat has been doing since the beginning of time show that he has been studying and trying to explore the world around him. The more he does this, the better he gets at it and the more likely it is that he will survive and have a family.
Now that you know the real reason why your cat plays, you can develop your relationship with your feline friend by playing the same games. As long as you don’t get too aggressive, your kitty will enjoy playing with you just as much as he does playing with toys.