Is playtime in the animal kingdom universal?

We have all seen it, dogs play, cats play, deer, bear, basically all the bigger animals i can think of, enjoy “playtime”

I hope that we can all agree on what play time is, but i guess i would consider it, anything the animal does for enjoyment, rather than survival.

How universal is this playtime?

Do ants play? Fish? Bacteria?

Is there a certain level of intelligence, or maybe even level on the food chain, where there is no play, only survival.

Whilst I am sure ‘play’ does exist in the animal kingdom in the sense of: things done for no other purpose than individual entertainment, a lot of what you’re seeing when you watch cats, dogs etc ‘play’ is practice for hunting or mating, plus jostling for social status within the group.

Can’t the same be said of a lot of human play?

I would say so. A lot of childhood play consists of mimicking adult roles. For example, children play with baby dolls, mini cookware, fire trucks, mini toolsets, etc.

Sports, video games, board and card games etc. are jostling to show superior physical or mental status.

Oh, indeed - in fact, I think there’s a definition problem with ‘play’ in the same general sense as (and related to) the problem with defining free will.

All of the “bigger animals” you list are mammals, and if you were to expand out from mammals, your next several would probably be birds. Mammals and birds are all fairly K-selected, which means that the parents have relatively few offspring, but invest significantly into their success. A fair part of that investment is teaching and learning how to perform basic tasks, and it also involves at least some degree of social structure. Play is involved in both of those.

Once you get into R-selected animals (many offspring left to fend for themselves in the hope that a few survive), like most fish or reptiles, I would expect a much different pattern. R-selected animals have to know how to do whatever it is they do instinctively, without learning, and usually aren’t social, because they’re competing directly against their siblings. So there’s no place for play there.