Cat play and toys incorporates predatory games of “play aggression”. Cats’ behaviors when playing are those similar to hunting behavior. These activities allow kittens and younger cats to grow and acquire cognitive and motor skills, and also to socialize with other cats. Cat play behavior can be either solitary or social. They can play with a multitude of toys ranging from strings, to small furry toys resembling what would be prey (e.g. mice) to plastic bags.
Since cats are predators, nearly all cat games are predatory games.
Prey is fearful of predators. Predators often encounter prey that attempt to escape predation. Prey that moves towards the cat with confidence may be exhibiting an aggressive defensive posture. Cats often play with toys that behave more like fearful prey trying to escape than toys that mimic a more confrontational prey.
Success rate is important in play. A cat that catches its prey every time soon gets bored, and a cat that never gets it just loses interest. The ideal hunting success rate is around 1 in 3 to 1 in 6. Capturing prey at this rate generally maximize a cat’s interest in the game.
Play is about predation, and a highly excited cat can cause minor injuries in the excitement of the moment. With most cats, it is wise to keep playthings at least 20 cm (8″) away from fingers or eyes, and avoid encouraging a cat to eat inedible toys.