The purrfect play session…
Importance of play…
Play comes natural to kittens. Kittens start to play when they are four weeks of age and this continues up to 10-14 weeks of age. During this period, kittens engage in social play with their littermates. Social play teaches kittens good social skills, improves motor communication and hunting skills. Play is also a stress buster and keeps your kitty physically fit. It is important to keep littermates together for 8-10 weeks so that kittens can learn acceptable social behaviour and also learn to bond with each other. Aggression in play may be seen more in kittens who have been raised solitarily since these kittens miss out on the chance of learning proper social behaviour from their littermates. The mother disciplines kittens who engage in rough play by hissing, whereas, littermates might just stop playing with the erring kitten. Between 12-14 weeks of age, social play begins to phase out and object play begins. Kittens stalk, chase, bite, pounce and learn hunting skills during this stage.
Here are a few tips to play with your kitty:
- You need not spend a lot of money on toys for your kitty. Cardboard boxes, ping-pong balls, paper bags, balls, fish-poles with a toy dangling on one end, stuffed soft toys, etc can provide lots of fun and amusement.
- Do not let your kitten play with chewable toys that could be potentially harmful.
- Do not play with your hands, feet or any other body part. It may be fun when your kitty is small but will soon become painful and dangerous when your kitten becomes an adult.
- Set aside short and fixed playtime sessions for your kitty.
- Kittens enjoy playing with a fish pole with a toy dangling at the end of it. Never dangle the toy right in front of the kitten’s face. Move the toy side to side and do not make it hard for the kitten to catch the toy otherwise the kitten will be frustrated. Allow a ‘cool down period’ after the play. This will again not discourage the kitten.
- If your family can handle another kitten, get one with the same age as your kitten. Kittens love companions and can provide fun and excitement for one another.
- Provide a variety of toys. This will keep the kitten interested and curious.
- Never hit the kitten in case he shows signs of rough play. He will start to fear your hands. Say a definite No.
- Reward the kitten for good behaviour during play.
Keep in mind that the play sessions are meant to provide fun for you and your kitty. So have fun!
(Sudhersena is volunteer at the Blue Cross since 1998 and an avid animal lover, owns nine cats and three dogs. She is associated with a number of animal welfare campaigns and programmes.)