Play is essential for a new kitten, particularly if it is the only cat in the house. Kittens usually play socially with their littermates, developing the hunting skills that they would need in the wild. It builds up their muscles, keeps them healthy, and they can socialize at the same time.
Once the kitten is away from its litter, it’s up to you to take over this job and play with them regularly. This will help you to get to know one another better, and your kitten will trust you much more if you play with it regularly. It also reduces stress and can prevent behavioral problems that can arise from not having enough social interaction.
Tips on Playing with Your Kitten
Playing with your kitten will come to you by instinct – your new cat will know what it likes and will soon show you its favorite games. There are some things that you need to consider, however, before diving in. Following these guidelines will help both you and your kitten bond and enable you to have the best playtime ever.
When Is the Best Time to Play?
It’s best to play with your kitten in short sessions. Remember they are still young and growing so they will get tired (and bored!) easily. When you notice that your kitten is very alert, then it is the best time to play. Many times, this will be in the evening as cats are very active at night. Play with them at least twice a day when possible so that they aren’t left for long stretches without interaction.
Help Your Kitten Learn
Trying out a range of different activities will help your kitten to develop all of the skills that they need. Engaging their brain is just as important as engaging their bodies. Don’t forget to make them work sometimes. Introducing something that they have to climb onto play is brilliant for both their strength and their balance.
While play for kittens centers around hunting instincts, now is the perfect time to show them that pouncing on top of you is a no-no. Kittens love to attack feet, so distracting them with a toy will show them that this isn’t something for them to play with. Similarly, avoid using your fingers as part of playtime. If you do, your kitten will associate them with play and will continue to bite when it is older. Playtime is also perfect for teaching your cat to come when you call its name!
Know When to Stop
If your kitten is purring, it’s a good sign that they love the game. If it starts squeaking and its claws come out more regularly, it’s probably time to stop games with your cat. Slow down gradually before stopping, and your cat will relax again by the time you put the toys away. Keep anything that is potentially dangerous when unattended out of your kittens reach, such as string. Keeping certain toys off the floor will also renew their interest for them when they are taken out for playtime.
The Best Toys for Your Kitten
There is a whole range of toys out there for kittens – but the truth is that cats don’t need very much to keep them amused. Many toys can be found around the home or bought for little money. If you are introducing new store-bought toys, do so gradually. Your cat will soon let you know what it does and doesn’t like, but if you give it too many toys all at once, it may get overwhelmed and just choose one to play with – ignoring everything else you’ve bought. Give it one toy at a time, and it will have their full attention.
Everyone knows that cats love cardboard boxes, and the internet is full of videos of large cats trying to fit into small boxes. It’s not just for our entertainment, though. Kittens use boxes as a form of play, and you can enhance this by adding toys to them or connecting boxes so that they form tunnels – with treats stored inside. This is a cheap and simple way to keep your cat entertained for a few hours while you are out of the house. They can play, but you’ll also find that they’ll regularly hide in boxes as they feel safe there.
A scratching post is more than just for keeping your cats’ nails in tip-top shape. It can also be a great source of play. There are so many types of scratching posts available, so if your kitten seems to really like them, think about investing in one where you can attach toys such as feathers to grab their attention. Some kittens won’t show any interest in a scratching post, but as they grow older, they might start to use it more and more, so don’t get rid of it just because your kitten doesn’t seem interested.
Cats love to chase things, and so rolling a ball along the floor will often see them scurrying after it! You can also do this with a remote-control mouse, which will activate their hunting instincts. Chase is a great game to play with your kitten. After playtime, don’t take the toy away from your cat straight away. They will enjoy being able to bat the ball around or congratulate themselves on catching the mouse.
Hide and Seek
Kittens love a fun game of hide and seek! It’s easy to play, and you don’t need to buy anything. Simply hide behind a large piece of furniture, and your kitten will practice their stalking skills by trying to sneak up on you! This is really good for their development and is a great bonding game for you both.
Have you considered letting your cat play on an app? There are loads out there designed specifically for kittens to play with. You can get one with a red dot, or with fish that your cat has to paw at. When they do, they disappear, only for more to appear afterward! It’s amazing how our pets can now interact so well with technology, and these cat games will teach your kitten eye-paw coordination.
Bubbles are a classic game played with your cat. Just blow them up into the air at watch your kitten paw at them from the ground or leap up to try and catch them. This helps them to judge distance and is something you can do that will help them to play on their own. It requires little input from you apart from creating the bubbles themselves.
Yes, you can teach your cat to play fetch. While everyone knows that dog food is a great incentive for pooches, cat food or cat treats can help you to train your kitten to do things. Fetch is one of them. Most cats will chase a toy if you throw it – dashing after it and pouncing on it – but only some will automatically bring it back to you. If yours does, reward it so that it reinforces this behavior. If your cat refuses to bring it back even once, then you’re probably going to have to fetch it yourself!
Anything that Crinkles
Cats love anything that makes a noise, especially crinkled paper. They will attack the object that makes this sound, which means lots of playtime for you from simple household items! A paper bag is also a favorite toy. Make sure it doesn’t have any handles before your cat dives in. You can then poke the sides of it at your kitten will bat at the sound and movement the bag makes.
Kittens react to catnip any time after four months old. Not every cat likes it, but many do, so giving your kitten a treat ball of it can be a great source of play for them! It is a particularly good way for them to play by themselves. Many cats will be occupied by catnip for hours at a time! Use it as an occasional playtime treat, as interacting with your kitten yourself is just as important as them learning to play on their own.
Cats love laser pointers, it’s a fact, and kittens are just the same. Running the red dot along the floor for your kitten to try and chase it is one of the best toys out there, and your kitten will learn a lot while doing it. Make sure you don’t let them chase for too long, as your kitten will get tired easily. Remember to let them ‘catch’ it eventually before putting it away.
There are so many toys available to stimulate your kitten and allow you both to bond. Playing with your new cat every day will mean that they’ll trust you and will soon start to show you affection. Regular playtime will lead to a happy and healthy cat who will have a lot of energy. Not only that, but playing with a kitten is as fun for you as it will be for them! However, if you are busy and don’t have enough time to spend with your kitten, we advise you to think about hiring a cat sitter.