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How to Teach Your Cat to Play Fetch in 6 Easy Steps

Boo McCourt has personal experience caring for her own cats and likes to share tips that might be helpful.

Teaching your cat to play fetch is not as difficult as it seems!

Teaching your cat to play fetch is not as difficult as it seems!

Teaching a Cat Tricks Is Easier Than You Think

Believe it or not, you can easily teach your cat to play fetch. It's not a game reserved just for dogs. I've heard people tell me that cats do not play fetch, but I am here to tell you that they love it almost as much as dogs do. They are actually very intelligent animals, and as you may know, they have their very own distinctive personalities. They can be just as demanding as any high maintenance dog. In fact, in my experience, they are even more so.

I never thought much about teaching my cat tricks until I actually started doing it, and they seriously started responding. I started out crumpling paper into small balls. The cats really seemed to like the sound of the crumpling. They came zipping out of nowhere every time I crumpled a wad of paper, and when I tossed the balls, they darted after them in a frenzy. So, I was onto something, I thought. And the game of fetch began.

To my surprise, I found that teaching your cat to fetch is a lot easier than you might think. You will find that the more you do it, the better your cat responds because animals love repetition. When my cats were just kittens, I started throwing out those crumpled up paper balls, and, every once in a while, those little cloth mice for them to fetch. Strangely enough, and to my surprise, with just enough coaching, they would bring them back to me every single time.

Pooped out from fetching...

Pooped out from fetching...

Let's Play Fetch

Repetition is the key to successfully getting your cat to play fetch.

— Boo McCourt

Six Steps to Teaching a Cat How to Fetch

1. Find a Toy Your Cat Likes

First things first, you want to determine what your cat's favorite toy is. It should be something light and soft so that your cat can fetch it and bring it back to you easily. As I mentioned previously, I use a small felt mouse and crumpled up paper balls, but you can use a small plastic ball or some other small cat toy. Whatever your cat prefers will be easiest.

The two older cats I had, as well as the younger set, preferred the crumpled up paper balls. They loved it when I crumpled up the paper into little balls. They knew it was time to play. The paper balls are super light, so they can carry them back without any difficulty.

2. Rub Catnip Onto the Toy

It is super fun for the cats if I rub catnip into the paper balls. What cat doesn't love a little dose of catnip? Let your cat get a good whiff of the paper ball. My cats get extremely demented, rolling around and pouncing all over the place after they got a good sniff of the catnip. I fling the toy a few feet away from me, not too far, just enough to tease the cat. Hopefully, this will get your cats excited enough to notice the toy dipped in catnip.

3. Praise Your Cat as It Plays

Go over to your cat as it plays around with the toy, sneak in some praise and lots of attention. Take the toy and call your cat to you by its name. Tell your cat, “ Good kitty.” Or whatever pet name you use for your cat. Keep petting and praising your cat, letting it know what an excellent job it did by fetching the toy.

I also give my cats a treaty every time it brings the toy back to me. I found this to be extremely effective with my cats. They get so excited when they realize they are going to get a treaty just for fetching after a paper ball.

4. Throw the Toy Further

Get your cat's attention on the cat toy again and throw it a little bit farther this time. Go to your cat and fetch the ball and return to your original place. Throw it again and repeat the exact same behavior several times. Letting your cat know it is doing a good job. Praise, praise, praise. Pets love praise for a job well done. Not to mention a treaty to boot.

5. Keep a Consistent Routine

Every day you should follow the same routine around the same time of day if this is possible. Your cat will begin to expect this routine with regularity. Before you know it, your cat will be picking the toy up on its own, letting you know it wants to play fetch.

6. Let Your Cats Initiate

Within a few weeks or less, your cat should be picking up the toy and carrying it back to you without prompting. Take the toy and throw it again. Every day, your cat will bring the toy closer and closer until it realizes it is playing a game of fetch. My cats love this game of fetch. And with practice, yours might too.

It was fun and easy to teach them. The catnip and treaties are very helpful in getting them to bring the paper ball back to me. Crumpling of the paper really seems to work the best for my cats. Each time I crumpled the paper, they became excited and wanted to play. Follow these few easy steps, and you too will have your cat playing fetch in no time.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on August 28, 2013:

LOL! i think they like stuff like that. That is funny.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 27, 2013:

I've got a kitty who plays fetch with ping pong balls. We couldn't believe he could open his mouth wide enough for them to fit.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on January 08, 2012:

Kiley I think was sleeping and the other was ready to kick some butt...

It takes a lot of patience to tech them...Just keep tossing the ball and getting and redoing it and hopefully they will get it.. I taught all three of my cats, and my mom's cat is learning slowly!

Crumpling up that paper gets their attention. The younger the cat is the better.... but you kind of got to get involved with the cat and just keep tossing that paper around and bring it back and so on....patience is the key!

Hey thank you guys for reading and taking the time to comment. It makes me happy!

kiley on December 21, 2011:

Is it easy to teach a cat when you do not have notes or is it easy to make them practes with out them Cause all my cat does is sleep all day!

kiley on December 21, 2011:

Hey!It is hard to get my cat to play fetch!

kiley on December 21, 2011:

so you can teach a cat to play fetch how easy is that

kiley on December 21, 2011:

are they sleeping or playing

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on May 11, 2011:

Hey cathylynn-Mine still play fetch, but a lot slower, like I am making them perform or something. My cats don't seem all that interested in treats either. They eat mostly wet food and snub their nose at most treats unless they are moist.

cathylynn99 from northeastern US on May 06, 2011:

smoke taught me to play fetch, but he quit when i moved from house to apartment. he also no longer likes treats. he's a mystery.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on September 30, 2010:

Yeah that would have been an awesome video. I wish I could catch my cats doing more stuff, but it like they see the camera and get all lazy and snobby.

Listerino on September 29, 2010:

Thanks. Just wish I got it on cam it would be a youtube hit lol now she's old and lazy and just likes to bat it around.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on September 29, 2010:

Hi Listerino-That sounds like an amazing cat. I tried throwing those rings for my cats, and they just looked at me like I was kind of lame. LOL! Cats are pretty amazing!

Listerino on September 29, 2010:

My cat is too old for games now but when she was younger she taught herself to fetch and I was so amazed. She loves to play with the plastic rings that come off milk bottles in Australia and I just started throwing it up in the air and she would jump up and catch it in her mouth them bring it back to me just like it was a frizbee.

Great hub :)

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on September 27, 2010:

Hey Doreen-Thank you. Give it a few weeks, work with your friends cat everyday. I would love to hear the results.

Doreen Beech from London on September 26, 2010:

excellent Hub Crazybeanrider.

will have to try this with my friends cat, I'll let you know how I get on.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on September 26, 2010:

atienza-You'd be surprised how easy it is to get her to fetch that mouse.

yenajeon-LOL! Your cat sounds scary.

BkCreative-My cats are so much like a dog sometimes. I call for them they will come running from another room. They are definitely amazing.

All cats are for that matter. I am happy you guys enjoyed my hub, and really appreciate all the kind comments. And give all the love you can to your precious little critters.

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on September 25, 2010:

How kind of your cat to allow you to do this.

Love this. Love cats. Love your hub!

Rated up! Yay!

Yena Williams from California on September 25, 2010:

My cat is such a dog as well! She's super ferocious and loves fetch!

atienza from Northern California on September 25, 2010:

I'll have to try this with my cat. She loves her toy mice, and anything with catnip. So she'd probably love fetch too.

Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on September 25, 2010:

Seakay, FloBe, & BlogggerOne-It is so amazing that cats can do tricks. My oldest cat will jump up on a chair and give kisses for a treaty as well. She also will open the cupboard the cat food is stored in. So I always know when she wants food. She doesn't want what's already out there, she wants fresh food. LOL! Thank you all for the great comments and for reading, I so appreciate it :)

BlogggerOne on September 25, 2010:

What a great idea! I've had cats all my life but the only one who would "fetch" is one that my daughter trained from the top of the stairs. She'd let the "superball" bounce down the stairs and the cat would bring it back up to her. Amazing! Thanks.

Flo Belanger from British Columbia, Canada on September 24, 2010:

I used to play this game of fetch with my cat all the time, just at bedtime from the tire them out so I could sleep. It's a lot of fun!

Seakay on September 24, 2010:

Cats are really very clever! I have three of them and it's a new surprise every day.