Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Kitten Play: 4 Tips for Maximizing Feline Playtime

By Ashlea Miller, June 24, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Ashlea Miller

Did you survive spring (also known as kitten season) without bringing a new kitten into your household? I nearly cave each spring as new litters multiply at my local shelter. The amount of “cute” is nearly overwhelming, and I barely make it out before resisting their desperate “take me home!” squeaks.

I eventually suppress the urge, however, and head home to my two adult cats, who still command kitten levels of attention. (I certainly enjoyed pulling together these shots of  cat my Nina from many years ago.) If you did welcome a new kitten to your family, congratulations!

These bundles of boundless energy bring so much joy to a household and remind us just how fun a few minutes of playtime can be. It’s important to remember, however, that playtime isn’t just about fun and games for kittens; they’re drawing on their instincts as natural-born predators and learning how to hunt. With that in mind, follow these tips to maximize your kitten’s playtime and ensure you’re raising a healthy, happy, well-behaved feline.

Keep your hands to yourself: All of that running, jumping, tumbling and pouncing your kitten’s doing? It’s all in the name of capturing its prey, so don’t make your hands the “catch.” Excited kittens bite, and that’s not a good behavior to introduce to any animal in its vital learning stage.

Toys make better prey, especially those that mimic cats’ prey in the wild – mice, birds, fish, etc. Look for balls, feathers and other toys attached to long sticks (again, to keep your hands far from the action), small stuffed rodents with squeakers included (animal sounds also mimic real-life hunts) and small stuffed toys the same size as your kitten so she can wrestle and kick it with her back paws (this is how she would play with her littermates). If she does bite, pull your hands away and wait until she settles down to give her a toy; otherwise she’ll think the toy is her reward for biting you.

Act out every stage of “the hunt”: As entertaining as it is to watch your feisty fur ball dart back and forth at an endlessly frenetic pace, there’s more to her hunt than just the chase. Don’t forget to let her “stalk” her prey by dragging a toy around a corner, under a blanket or just beneath the sofa. Let your kitten slowly pursue it, and just before she captures the critter, move it again. After a few attempts of stalk, chase and pounce, let your kitty capture her prey; she has to win at some point! Let her savor the moment for a few minutes, then feed your kitty her regular meal so she connects the play hunt with actual food.

Free toys work just as well as expensive ones: Luckily, kittens don’t care about price tags, so you don’t have to go broke buying bedazzled toys. Crumpled up Whole Foods Market® receipts make perfect “soccer balls,” as do bottle caps, balled up foil and the old standby, balls of yarn. Avoid anything that kitty could swallow or get entangled in, including single pieces of string, elastic bands, plastic bags or anything with sharp edges.

While iPads and other tablets certainly aren’t low-budget, there are plenty of free or inexpensive apps meant to keep kitty’s attention, such as the aptly named “Game for Cats,” which lets your kitten chase a darting ball of light around the screen. Bonus points for not finding a million misplaced toys under your furniture! Remember to change your toys up; kittens like variety.

Create a room with a view: Domestic cats haven’t lost the urge to climb trees and view the world from above, so make sure your kitten has plenty of levels she can ascend as she grows, as well as multiple views of the outdoors. (Indoor cats live up to three times as long as outdoor cats, however, so keep that kitten inside!) Place a cat tree next to a window, or create an “observation deck” on a wide window sill. The visual stimulation is vital to your kitten’s happiness, which, in turn, makes for a healthy, well-adjusted cat.

If you have kittens or cats, I’d love to hear how you keep them entertained. Good luck with your furry ball of energy!

Category: Pets

 

5 Comments

Comments

deon says ...
I tried the ballon game. They loved it, but then my boikat started eating the string, ended up in emergency room...many dollars later.... now we have one of those small laser point number that do a red light on the carpet and walls. they go bezerk!! amazing excercise time!!
06/26/2012 10:54:12 AM CDT
Barb Bentzen says ...
I buy the balloons on a string at the dollar store. I bring them home and turn on the fans, and my cats chase the strings around the house. As the fans blow the balloons and the strings are floating around. They have a blast.
06/25/2012 3:15:26 PM CDT
rhoda says ...
My kitty just loves empty cardboard boxes. Place the box on its' side and kitty will go inside. When she does, scratch the outside of the box and quickly move your hand position. Kitty will try to attack. We all have great fun and no chance of anyone getting hurt.
06/27/2012 9:22:08 PM CDT
Elizabeth Brooks says ...
I am an interior designer and I own the world's ugliest piece of furniture. It is a nine foot cat tree that is in my bedroom right in front of a huge window, so everyone can see it. I found it on line somewhere. My two cats love it. They can climb and since it has several platforms they can sit or lie up there and look out the window all day long. I am lucky that both my cats will walk on a leash....everyone out there, give it a try, not all cats will do it, but it is worth a shot.
10/21/2012 11:54:49 AM CDT
jennyR says ...
My cats love the outdoors, but I want to keep them safe and protected. So I made a compromise of "cat proofing" my back yard. My yard is fenced in, but they can easily get over the fence. I bought a few 3ft x 50 ft chicken wire rolls. I cut the rolls into 3 x 1. 5 ft pieces. they curve naturally because it comes in rolls. I cut 6-7 inch short strips of thin wire (kind of like the bread ties on bags of buns or bread. I used the thin wire to attach the curved chicken wire pieces to the top of my fence, so that it curves in towards the yard at the top. My cats (I have 7) all can climb the fence, but when they get to the top, they just turn around and go back down, because they can not figure out how to get past the curve. I've had it up for a year now, and they have never gotten out of the yard. They don't even try. They love to go and play in the yard for a while and then come in the rest of the day.
07/12/2014 2:20:25 PM CDT