When do Cats Become Less Playful?

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It can be frustrating for some people to come home to a once playful cat turned dull. You start questioning your cat’s health and whether or not she is hungry. When you are sure that nothing is wrong health-wise and that she is not hungry, you may wonder, “When do cats become less playful?”

Cats usually become less playful after the age of 7 years old.  Cats go through many stages in their life cycle, but as they age, they may play less and sleep or lounge more often.  As your cat ages and is less playful, a good cat owner will look for ways to keep the life of their cat enriched.

Read on to see more about the playfulness of a cat in terms of his or her lifecycle!

Cats are playful creatures

Before you start panicking that your cat may be less playful, answer the questions below:

  • How old is your cat?
  • Is your cat under stress? Are there sudden changes in its environment that you can think of? If yes, then that could be the cause.
  • How healthy is your cat? It is best to visit a veterinarian to find out whether or not your cat is healthy. Your cat could be having health issues such as having intestinal worms for example and this can result in inactivity. Interaction with certain animals can also spread disease – we outlined some examples of this in an article of ours about cats and raccoons.

Kittens are playful by nature but as they grow up into adults, the playfulness is pushed aside gradually. From the age of 4 weeks, your kitten will want to explore her surroundings and play as much as possible.

Any object that crosses her path will be an invitation to play; even your hands and feet will interest her. However, it is important to discourage playing with your hands or feet as she may think that it is ok to bite and scratch in the future.

It is pretty common knowledge that when your cat is between 6-18 months, she becomes a “teenager” and her sexual hormones are all over the place. She may become aggressive as she learns to stalk or hunt. Introducing toys that stimulate her hunting nature will be helpful at this stage.

When she hits 3-6 years, your cat should still be a playful creature. She may also lounge around and perhaps cuddle at your feet or sit on your lap. Once in a while she may do things that seem like she is testing the boundaries that you and her have already worked on together.  A cat bed can provide your cat a great place to rest.

When your cat is over the age of 7 years old, you should expect limited activity from your cat. She will not be as active as she was at less than 6 years. As she grows older, she may prefer lounging around and may also not eat as she used to.  Her grooming habits may decline, and eventually she may have numerous “toilet” accidents. Her health may also become worrisome. This will require regular visits to the veterinarian.

Even with her decreasing zeal to play though, you still have to find ways to keep her active. You need to find new toys that will capture her attention and make her want to at least move a muscle or two! The mere tossing of a ball may not cut it. The same may apply to that dangling string!

You may need to get creative to keep your cat active such as introducing puzzle treats or using feather teasers.

Best ways to play with a kitten

Kittens love playtime. Forget about cuddling and handling them, playtime helps hone their social and hunting skills. At less than 6 years, you can look forward to lots of pouncing, chasing, hiding, and climbing from your kitten.

If there are other kittens or her mother is nearby then you will notice a lot of these activities. Otherwise, you may have to invest in plenty of movable toys such as fishing rod toys, feather teasers, balls, mice, yarn, and laser pointers, among others.

As you play with your kitten, she may be interested in your moving hands or toes. Fun as it may be to let her play with them, it is best to discourage this behavior.  You don’t want her getting older and thinking it is ok to bite or scratch you and that it is acceptable playing.

Should you ignore that pounce, scratch, or bite?

What happens if she is at that aggressive stage and tends to hide and pounce on you as you walk past? When this happens, you need to stop and use a toy to distract her. Cat scratches or bites are no fun and may result in infections, so you need to curb this behavior as soon as possible!

Introduce as much playtime as possible in your cat’s life. That aggression may be due to pent-up energy. Bring out those play toys and let your cat play for at least 5-10-minute intervals throughout the day.

If your cat is overweight, that is probably even more reason to play more often with your cat for some exercise, however, you should keep a good eye on her because you don’t want her injuring herself due to more activity.

When she bites or scratches you, try to leave the room and treat it as a “time-out”. You may also spray a little water on the cat whenever she tries to bite or scratch you (but this should be a last resort – also, I’ve heard this is pretty ineffective at changing cat behavior).

Alternatively, you could yelp or clap your hands and immediately introduce her to a toy to capture her attention.  Be patient and consistent with the actions above and your cat could change her behavior.

Sometimes your cat’s actions are more than just playing though. Your cat may be injured or simply not want to be touched on certain body parts such as its paws, face, or stomach. It is a rare day indeed that my cat Charlotte wants pets on her stomach.

An injured cat may respond with aggression when the injured body part is touched. You may need to visit the vet if you have tried the above remedies and she is still aggressive, and your gut instinct tells you to get her checked out.

Best ways to play with an adult cat

A cat’s health, age, or weight will determine how playful she gets. Adult cats tend to not to play as much as kittens. They appreciate sleeping more in their older age.  However, it is important to keep them stimulated. Even if you’re giving her 5 minutes of playtime at different times of the day, it is enough to keep an adult cat stimulated.  Do your best.

Adult cats may not be moved by “kitten toys” such as the yarn, ball, or fishing rod. You may need to introduce new toys for her playtime such as a disappearing feather or a moving mouse. You could also try playing with a laser pointer in a dark room to capture her attention. Go for moving toys to tap into her hunting nature.

Don’t interrupt her rest or sleep time and think that she will want to play with you. Instead, watch for her most active times of the day and then introduce games.

Best ways to play with a senior cat

Senior cats love to rest and follow you with their eyes. Their activity level is much less than their younger days and their health could be more fragile, and she will likely require regular checkups. However, it is important to keep your senior cat’s life as enriched as possible.

Your cat’s personality and energy levels will determine how playful she wants to be. Some cats love to climb on cat trees / cat condos while others love to chase after toys or stuffed animals.  You can put your cat on a cat harness and leash and let her patiently explore the back yard a little bit or even get her some cat grass to munch on.

Some cats may only be motivated to move a muscle if a treat is in sight!

Cats with health issues such as arthritis may not be motivated to play no matter what you do since every movement brings pain to their bodies.  Make sure you are consulting your veterinarian.  If your senior cat is healthy then a short playtime will help keep her stimulated. You need to ensure that the activities are not intense and that they are not exhausting.

What if my senior cat is blind?

A blind senior cat requires extra care. However, she also needs her playtime. Luckily, cats have well-developed senses of hearing and smell. With patience and consistency, you can still add playtime in your blind senior cat’s life. Play it safe all the time by not moving furniture around and talking to your pet.

It might be tempting to carry her from room to room, but you shouldn’t as this may disorient the cat. Instead, you should let her use her developed hearing to follow your voice wherever you are or the map of the house that she has committed to memory.

I had a friend with a blind cat, and I was always amazed at how the cat knew where she was walking without having her eyesight.

When it comes to playtime, opt for toys that make sounds or that have a scent such as crinkle toys, jingle balls, and catnip toys.

What if my senior cat is deaf?

 A deaf cat will use her sight and sense of smell. She will comfortably play with most toys such as balls, catnip toys, the laser pointers, or cardboard boxes. The trick is to keep the toys in her sight, and you are good to go!

Do cats get less affectionate with age? 

You may be wondering why your once cuddly cat now chooses to lay around and stare at you with bored eyes. Is she becoming more aggressive as she ages? Do cats get less affectionate with age?

As cats age, they may become more affectionate (or even clingy or needy) or even less affectionate. She may also lash out at the slightest provocation. The lashing out could be because of not hearing or seeing as well as they used to. You may want to limit abrupt movements near your older cat as you do not want to scare her.

Your elderly cat’s lack of affection could also be due to illness, so it will be important to see your Vet regularly.


The life cycle of a cat is an interesting one. From the playful kitten to the potential “mind your business” adult cat, playtime remains important throughout the different life stages. Playtime helps your cat remain active and as healthy as possible.  Playtime also helps to keep the bond between cat and cat owner strong.  When your cat is older, try to do your best to keep her life enriched, after all cats are wonderful parts of our family.

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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