Playtime! How to Interact with Your Cat

More on PawNation: animal play, AnimalPlay, cat play, CatPlay, pet play, PetPlay, Red_Room

kitten playing picture Stephanie Farrar

Watching cats play makes us smile, laugh out loud, and maybe even join in the fun. While adult pets play less than rambunctious babies, all cats play to some extent through their entire life. It's not only fun for you both, but healthy as well.

How Cats Play
By 4 weeks of age, kittens practice four basic techniques: play fighting, mouse pounce, bird swat, and fish scoop. The first play displayed by kittens is on the back, belly-up, with paws waving. Feints at the back of a sibling's neck mimic the prey-bite used to dispatch mice (toy or real). Kittens also practice the simpering sideways shuffle, back arched high, almost tiptoeing around other kittens or objects. Soon, the eye-paw coordination improves to execute the pounce, the boxer stance, chase and pursuit, horizontal leaps, and the face-off where kittens bat each other about the head. These skills falls into the following play cat-egories:

Social play refers to games with others. That can be wrestling with littermates, playing tag with other pets, or ambushing the ankles of a favorite human. Social play reaches its peak in kittens aged 9 weeks to 16 weeks, and decreases thereafter. Adopt two kittens together to avoid becoming a target of kitten play aggression.

Object play is interaction with toys--and for a kitten, everything is potentially a toy. Chasing, pawing, clawing and capturing are the names of the games. Movement and sound stimulates play behavior, so choose lightweight, easy-to-bat-around toys that make interesting noise. Try a ping-pong ball in an empty tub. That helps prevent " gravity experiments" when cats push breakables off high shelves to see what happens.

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