There’s nothing more fun than a little kitten who wants to play. Easily entertained, to them a piece of string or a small teddy can keep them interested for hours on end. Playing is not only good fun for your kitten and for all involved but is also an essential component of a young cat’s development and helps them to hone their hunting skills, develop their paw-eye coordination, improve their balance and build muscle. As well as these physical components, play also helps to keep their minds engaged and to reduce stress levels. Before, their mum and siblings were their playmates so now we need to assume that role!
What do I need?
Realistically, kittens are not fussy and can have just as much fun with a cardboard box as they can with an expensive, electronic toy. Every kitten is different and you should try out different options to see which tickles their fancy. Some things which you may already have around the house that you could try include:
- Laser Pointer. Try pointing it at the floor and moving it in different patterns. To a kitty, this is a great game of ‘cat and mouse’ and they can learn to stalk and pounce. To avoid frustration, periodically point the light on a teddy that they can jump on and reward them with some ‘prey’ (a tasty treat) at the end of the game.
- Loo Rolls. Cardboard loo rolls are not only fun for kittens to chew on but can also be used as a place to hide treats. Place a few around the room and watch your little one go exploring.
- Home-made ‘Whack-a-mole’. Use an old shoe box with big holes punched in the lid and an opening at one of the sides. Then use big bits of cotton wool or a small cuddly toy in your hand as the ‘mole’ that pops up. Your cat will love bopping away at it with their paws.
- A Ping Pong ball (or any type of small ball really). Bounce it in front of your kitten and watch them go wild as they chase it around, trying to pin it down.
How often should I be playing with my kitten?
Kittens rarely say no to a game and we should aim for at least four short play sessions a day when possible. However, never force a play session and if your kitten would rather have some alone time or go for a cat nap, allow them to do so.
Playing safe with your kitten
Try not to play any games where your kitten could scratch or nip you, so keep hands at a safe distance by using rod and pole toys. When they play nicely, encourage this behaviour by praising them and giving them a little stroke under the chin. Kittens sometimes explore with their mouths so do tidy away any string, feather or small toys at the end of the play session to prevent them from ingesting anything they shouldn’t.
What about catnip toys?
While catnip is quite safe and can boost mood, not every cat reacts to it and most don’t develop the ability to do so until around six months of age. Due to this, it’s probably best to wait until your little one is older before introducing the catnip.
Does my kitten need a scratching post?
Absolutely! Kittens naturally love to scratch and if we don’t provide them with a space to do this, our furniture and curtains become fair game. Posts allow kitties to strengthen their muscles and they see it as a way to mark their territory and settle in their new home.