As well as being great fun, playing with your kitten will help them to develop into a well-behaved and sociable adult cat.
It’s important to play with your kitten
A kitten’s early weeks should mainly be spent feeding and sleeping with their mother and siblings. The only other thing they do at this time is have fun; these early days of fun are an important part of their development.
By playing with their siblings, your kitten is learning how to interact without hurting. They start to understand the boundaries around biting and scratching and learn how to play-fight nicely.
Without these boundaries your kitten will think that rough play is enjoyable for everybody. It is often the case that kittens that have missed out on this early interaction with siblings will be more inclined to play rough.
After you pick up your new kitten, you should continue to play with them regularly. Interact with them and provide them with sufficient attention. You can start to introduce toys slowly and try not to overwhelm them.
How long should I play with my kitten for?
A young kitten will still need plenty of rest. Short bursts of activity will be beneficial throughout the day and you may find that this prevents them being at their most active as you’re trying to switch off for the day.
Many people get two or more kittens at a time. This is great from the perspective of the kitten as they still have their sibling (usually) to continue to play fight with for further development. Although you should keep an eye on them as they get older and stronger as one kitten may become more dominant than the other and not know when their playmate has had enough. Step-in if you see this happening.
Young children will love playing with kittens, but always ensure they are supervised and that your kitten doesn’t become over stimulated.
What sort of toys does my kitten need?
You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on kitten toys, there are so many out there and some can be quite expensive. Household items are an inexpensive way of seeing what sort of things your kitten likes to play with.
Try a ball of silver foil to see whether your cat enjoys chasing balls - most cats do. A piece of string attached to a stick, is another great source of entertainment. If you find that your cat enjoys these, you could then look to buy something similar if want to upgrade.
As your kitten gets older, they will really enjoy playing with toys that allow them to practice their natural hunting instinct. Toys that allow them to stalk, chase and catch their ‘prey’ will always work well. They will enjoy swatting, pouncing and leaping after things.
Good investments include:
- Fishing rod toys: toys that you can dangle for your kitten are great and the design ensures that your fingers are a bit safer. Many of these have feathers attached, which kittens seem to love.
- Treat balls: cats are pretty smart, and most will be happy to work for a treat. While they are young, make sure you provide support (if needed) to ensure they don’t get frustrated and bored.
- Cat tunnel: great fun for kittens and for you. Many have a ball that dangles at one end, your kitten will love rolling around in this. Even better if you have two kittens as these provide a great hiding place for games of hide and seek.
- Catnip toys: There’s a myriad of these available and they don’t always have to contain catnip. Mice and birds are big favourites for obvious reasons Anything that makes a squeaky noise will also go down well. Catnip is a great way to encourage cats to interact with toys although your kitten may not react to catnip until they are a little bit older. Not all cats love catnip, some may be oblivious to it. However, it is safe for kittens.
- LED Pointer Pen: Kitten’s will love chasing the red dot all around the house. They’ll enjoy getting into the pouncing position and ‘catching’ the dot.
- Cat trees / scratching posts: these offer a great opportunity for climbing, hiding, scratching and are great for a kitten’s development. There are some excellent ones available with tunnels and multiple levels, which also double as a resting place when your tired kitten needs a well-earned nap.
Although toys don’t need to be expensive, it’s important to ensure that they are good quality and can withstand being attacked by an energetic kitten for hours on end.
You should regularly check toys especially if they have loose bits, such as feathers or contain catnip to. Make sure that they are still safe for your kitten to play with and that nothing will detach and become a choking hazard for an inquisitive kitten.
A quick internet search will show many different options of cat toys. Many of these are great for self-entertainment, but if you do go down this route you should make sure that it doesn’t replace human interaction.
Don’t forget that a simple cardboard box will also provide hours of fun for a mischievous kitten or two.
Talk to your vet about suitable toys for your kitten.
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