Kittens love to play – and they’ll have even more fun if you play along with them too! Find out how to play with kittens by following Petplan’s suggestions for five fun and easy games to play with your pet.
It’s no secret that kittens are playful bundles of fun. Young cats spend a high proportion of their waking hours stalking, pouncing, hiding, jumping, catching, climbing and wrestling.
Clearly, kitten play is a lot of fun – for owners as well as young cats! But kitten games are about more than just making mischief. Play is how kittens hone the skills they use to catch food in the wild. Those kitten games keep them mentally alert and physically fit, help stave off boredom, and could prevent destructive behaviour and weight problems as your cat gets older.
Play is also how kittens learn about acceptable behaviour and boundaries, whether with each other or with humans. So if you’re wondering what to play with kittens, or how much to play with kittens, read on for five great kitten game ideas…
1. Hunting games
Toys that help hone hunting skills are essential in any kitten’s toy box. At the very least, provide:
- Something that moves along the floor like a mouse, for stalking and pouncing on – a ping-pong ball for instance.
- Something that flutters like a moth, for jumping and catching. A fishing-rod toy or feather teaser is great for this, and can also be pulled along the ground for pouncing practice.
- Something bigger to wrestle and kick, as a cat would with larger prey like a rabbit. A cuddly toy or kitty kick-bag works well.
Cats get a rush of feel-good hormones called endorphins when they catch and ‘kill’ their pretend prey. If you encourage your kitten to chase a laser pointer dot, give them a physical toy at the end of the play session so they get the same satisfaction.
Rotate the selection of toys available to maintain their novelty value. Hide fishing rod toys, and anything else with strings or ribbons, when not in use to reduce the risk of your kitten being strangled or entangled.
2. Peek-a-boo games
Kittens love to hide – in cardboard boxes, tunnels, big paper bags, and probably in your cupboards too! Cats are born predators who must learn to hide and spy on potential prey in the wild without being noticed, before jumping out and taking their victim by surprise. When pet kittens play, they practise this spying and surprising; just encourage them to jump on, and surprise, their toys rather than people!
You don’t need an expensive cat cave or pet tunnel to play hide and seek with your kitten – a cardboard box works equally well. Cut some kitten-sized openings, as well as holes just big enough for a peeping eye or cheeky paw, for maximum hide-and-seek fun.
3. Climbing games
Cats are fearless climbers. Out in the open this helps them survey their surroundings, find food and avoid danger. At home, your kitten will probably practise this essential skill by climbing your curtains and furniture – and maybe even you!
Satisfy your kitten’s climbing instincts by providing a purpose-built cat tree or simply making space on shelves so your young cat can reach great heights whilst protecting your curtains and soft furniture.
4. Feeding enrichment games
In the wild, a cat has to work hard for every meal. Get your kitten problem-solving for their supper with some feeding enrichment games. Online stores sell treat-dispensing puzzle balls, licky mats, and feeders with sliding panels for a moggy to manoeuvre.
Alternatively, make your own feeding enrichment games by putting some of your kitten’s regular dry food into empty egg-boxes, chocolate box inserts, toilet roll tubes, or just hiding it around your home.
5. Kitten tricks
Young cats love to learn and can be taught tricks. It’s not as easy as training a puppy though, so you’ll need time and patience.
By using positive reinforcement – giving a treat or favourite plaything when your kitten does what you want – you can teach them to come to their name, fetch a toy or give you a high-five. Discover how in our guides to teaching your kitten tricks and clicker training for cats.
How much to play with kittens
Although you can get apps and automated cat toys that creators claim will entertain kittens, nothing beats truly responsive, interactive play between you and your pet. Make time each day for at least a couple of focused 15-minute play sessions with your kitten. In addition to being a lot of fun for you both, this provides great bonding opportunities, essential for those first few weeks at home.
What not to play with kittens
Don’t use catnip for kittens when they’re very young. Cats tend not to respond to it until three to six months old and too much catnip could give your kitten an upset tummy.
Never get a kitten to play with you by letting them pounce on your fingers and toes or wrestle your feet and forearms, even through the protection of a blanket or duvet. This type of play might be cute when your cat is tiny, but it becomes potentially painful and risky once they have adult teeth and claws. If your kitten goes for your hands or feet, either stop the game and ignore them, or redirect their attention onto an appropriate toy instead.
Does your kitten love playing hide and seek? Or are they a courageous climber? Tag us using #PethoodStories on social media and let us know!