Can you Teach a Cat to Play Fetch?

deartabbyDear Tabby,
We have two dogs and recently rescued a cat from the shelter. We live in a farm community and was hoping for some help with the rodents! Our two dogs love to play fetch and we know it is great exercise for them. We were wondering if we can teach the cat to fetch too? She loves to run and play with the dogs, but will she fetch?
CATcher in the Rye

Dear Catcher,
Of course you can teach cat to fetch, especially if they are willing and motivated to learn! Just look at these guys:

Instinctually, cats are hunters, so chasing things, whether it’s a mouse or a cat toy, comes naturally. Bringing it back is the challenge. But just as with dogs, if you make the incentive for returning the toy greater than keeping it, you can train them to bring it back.
Here’s some tips on teaching your cat to play fetch – which by the way is GREAT exercise for your cat!

  • Make sure the toy you are asking them to retrieve is a toy the enjoy playing with – maybe it has some catnip in it or it’s a toy that he particularly loves, but that you restrict access to.
  • Get your cat excited and interested in the toy and then toss it a few feet away. The cat will chase after it. If they don’t, it’s either not that interested in the toy or you didn’t provide enough stimulation.
  • Now the hard part – the return! We suggest initially going and getting the toy back from your cat, replacing the toy with a treat.
  • Return to the original spot where you tossed the toy and repeat.
  • Slowly work to get your cat to come back to you and give up the toy, using the treats as an incentive.

As with any training session, your response and behavior is most important. For a game like this, you should be excited and praise your cat when he does it right. Don’t work on it for too long so that your cat gets tired or bored, start with short sessions so that they remain fun. Good Luck!

Additional Readings:
How to Play Fetch With Your Cat
Can Cats Learn to Play Fetch?

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  1. I have never taken the time to train a cat to fetch. Where I work we often take stray cats in to rehome, it always amazes me when one of them just spontaneously starts to play fetch. You wonder did someone teach them this or do they just naturally do it? After seeing one of my coworkers young kitten just start to fetch with no prompting, I think they are just born with the ability and it starts with them liking to carry things around in their mouth.
    Anne recently posted…My Cats Eat Canned Food and I Still Add Water, Find Out WhyMy Profile

    • Certainly the chase is instinct…but the return isn’t…at least I don’t think so, but how cool they just did it!
      KitKat recently posted…Can you Teach a Cat to Play Fetch?My Profile

  2. I’ve never tried this, but it sure would be fun. I don’t see Sam doing it since she doesn’t have a lot of interest in toys. Her late sister Katie might have though, she loved to carry things around and was often relocating beanie babies and photographs…her two favorite things!
    Jan K recently posted…#52Snapshots of Life – “Snuggly”My Profile

  3. Gweat posty. We kitties awe faw smawrter than peeps fink and we can learn lots of fings. Have a gweat day.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi
    Dezi and Lexi recently posted…Lexi Gets All Wet in the ShowerMy Profile

  4. I never tried to train my cat, but he decided to play fetch on his own. I’ll throw him a ball and he brings it back to me 🙂
    Rosa recently posted…12 Cat Cakes You Will Absolutely AdoreMy Profile

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