What toys work well for bonding play?
You need a tickler wand or other interactive toy. These are widely available, but here are some you can try:
Cats Claws Cat Tail Jumbo Cat Teaser (29" Length Wand; Cat Tail)
Mews Ments Feather Cat Teaser in Small (Small; 20" Length Rod)
Cat Dancer Cat Charmer (16" Length Wand; 48" Length Fabric Ribbon)
Pet Feather Teaser Cat Toy (30" Length Line; 36" Length Rod; Feather)
Cats Claws Interchangeable Cat Activity Toy System Pom Pom (29 inch Length Rod; 5 inch Length Pom Pom; Pom Pom)
Mews Ments Multi-Color Ball with Fur Tails Cat Teaser Cat Toy (18" Length Rod; 2" Diameter Ball; Multi-Color Ball With Fur Tails)
How is a bonding toy used?
The interactive, or bonding toys are used by you interacting with your cat. The cat isn't allowed the toy unless you offer it, so bonding is promoted. You will jiggle the toy so that the business end twitches. This will draw your cat to the toy. Allow your cat to attack the toy and capture it. Stop twitching the toy while the cat holds it, so that your cat can feel the success of it. Once your cat releases it's hold, jiggle the toy again and start over. Continue playing with your cat until your cat tires or gets bored with the toy. Give cuddles and a treat at this time. The more you play with your cat, the more your cat will bond with you. After each session, put the toy up and out of the cats reach. The cat will come to you and look at the storage location of the toy, asking for play. When this happens, you know your cat is bonded to you.
If you have more than one cat, do this for each cat. Once each cat is playing well and bonding with you, start to play with more than one cat at a time. Promote bonding between them by only playing with them until one cat drops out, then withdraw and put up the toy, give everyone a cuddle and a treat.
Continue to offer team play, but if any cat drops out, stop. It is very important to stop when a cat drops the team play. It gives the cats the opportunity to urge their play partner to keep going. You can always come back 15-30 minutes later and offer play to a different team or just one cat, but if it's team play, you need to stop when one drops out.
Treats are only used during bonding play while getting the behaviors started. Once the bonding has been achieved, treats are no longer needed, but some cats like them anyway. Follow your heart in this.
By doing the bonding play, you should see a marked difference in the behaviors of your cats. They will become more reliant on each other, and most of the scuffling between them will stop.
What about an aggressive cat?
This is an excellent training option for the aggressive cat! The aggressive cat will take out its aggressions on the toy instead of you. It will learn that you hold the toy and that the toy is unavailable unless you pull it out and offer it. This will lessen the aggressive behaviors toward you because the cat wants your attention in a positive way. It can use claws and teeth and you won't be angry with it. By withholding the toy, you may find the aggression returning, so other measures are needed, but this is a great way to start gentling your cat.
What about my scared cat?
Yes! Your scaredy cat will come out to play with you and the bonding can begin. Your cat will become less fearful and more integrated into the household. This is especailly true when there are more than one cat in the household and one hides all the time. Start by drawing your scaredy cat to the wand and promoting the bonding between you. Then, introduce the other cats, one at a time, to promote bonding between them. By introducing cats to each other using toys, pecking order scuffles are lessened, and even the most fearful cat will begin to bond with the pride in your home.
You can promote affection with your cat!
By using bonding play, your cat will bond with you, and will be more comfortable near you when not playing. You may find your cat sitting near you, sitting near your chair or even coming to your lap, by using bonding play. Your cat will ask for the toy, so it needs to learn to communicate that desire to you. Your cat will become more affectionate by learning to communicate.