Despite their odd and goofy habits, housecats are extremely intelligent creatures with an insatiable curiosity. So when you play with them, you can make sure you exercise not only their bodies, but their minds. Games that involve tracking by memory as well as smell can be especially effective.
One game that can work is the classic shell game-- take out three cups, put a small treat underneath one as your cat watches, and switch the order of the cups as fast as you can. After randomly rearranging the cups, allow your cat to try and figure out the correct answer. If you're feeling kind, you can let them knock over all three even if they don't get it right in the first time. But removing the cup with the treat if they get the first guess wrong gives them incentive to think harder.
Another good idea to hone your cat's memory and hunting instincts is the blanket game. Take a small toy, and shift it under a large, lumpy blanket ( though not so lumpy that the cat will be unable to get out from under it. Hide the toy, but do so in a fashion where its position isn't immediately clear. Allow the cat to hunt for the toy from underneath the blanket, and find their prize.
Finally, you can try playing hide and seek with the cat. It requires two rooms, one in which to keep the cat while you hide a treat, and one in which to hide the treat. Show the cat the treat, put them outside for a minute, then hide the treat and open the door. Allow the cat to track down the treat using all of their feline wits-- though make sure that it is in an accessible location.
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About the author:
A freelance writer/cartoonist living in LA, with my fiance' and our wonderful cat. You can see my work at www.rubysworldcomic.com and rubynation.smackjeeves.com