Animals show what sparks their interest

Animals show what sparks their interest

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Dear Dr. Fox: You asked if others have cats with creative play habits.

Our black and brown tabby has always played fetch. She often initiates the game by bringing my husband and me one of her mouse toys, which we call her “babies.” She has several in a small basket, and when she wants to play, she drops one near our feet and yowls — in her youth, she merely chirped — to let us know it’s time to play. Her favorite fetching activity is for us to throw it down the stairs. I used to call her “acro-cat” because she twisted and turned in the air as she chased her babies.

At almost 19, she is no longer acro-cat, but she still initiates play and chases her babies a few times down the stairs before lying down to rest. When she was younger, I think her record was a dozen trips up and down the stairs before stopping to rest.

Thanks for letting me sing the praises of Medora Grace. She’s been a wonderful gift to us. — R.W., Fargo, N.D.

Dear R.W. •

Over the years, I have found that when people let go of all expectations about what their animals might enjoy doing, and simply try one game or activity after another, the animals will tell them what sparks their interest. They may even invent their own games.

This can take on a ritualistic nature, as with our part-Australian red heeler dog, Kota, rescued from the local shelter. She flatly refuses to play ball or retrieve anything but waits for her chewy treat to be thrown for her so she can make a big deal about repeatedly pouncing on it before she eventually chomps down.

As part of their personality, animals will sometimes develop unique games or playful ways of interacting. Kota does a rather disconcerting snap at your face when she is in a playful mood. A rescued dog from an earlier time in our lives, Lizzie, would desperately run around to find a toy whenever we had a visitor.

Years ago, my Siamese cat, Igor, who was a great retriever, elaborated his own ambush game with me at night. He would arch his back in a threatening way as he approached me, then I would bend down and he would leap on my back and go for a ride around the apartment. He would always touch my nose in bed to wake me up just before the alarm went off, and if I refused to get up, would knock off whatever was on my bedroom dresser to get my attention.

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