Like all baby animals, kittens love to play, and their play forms a fundamental basis for skills they would need later in life if they were still in the wild. Those little paws will get into mischief faster than you thought possible, so you will need to make sure that their play is safe.
Why is play important to kittens?
From the beginning, kittens are learning adult behaviors through play. They are learning to stalk their prey, pounce and attack it, climb trees for safety and ambushing purposes and chew through tough skins. These are all vital skills that a young cat has to learn before leaving its mother’s side, as it would starve without them. The fact that your cat does not have to search for its food does not mean that these natural behaviors have been inhibited.
The rough-and-tumble action between litter-mates replicates these skills. They learn where and how hard to bite as well as their limitations from their litter-mates and mother. They learn to stalk their siblings, pounce and wrestle. While learning these skills, they also gain a degree of self-control that is vital in order to understand what is painful and what is not. If a kitten is deprived of these games with litter-mates, these essential skills and other social behaviors will not develop as they should.
A kitten that is very rough with its owners may not have had an opportunity to develop the skills we have been discussing. Their aggressive behavior will lead to scratching and biting instead of play, as they never learned their limitations. This can result in all kinds of problems later in life when socializing with other cats and humans.
Research has concluded that play has a significant influence on the development of the brain and neurological systems in cats. This means that play can have an impact on how the cat’s memory and decision-making skills develop.
Dangers in play
Kittens are inveterate explorers and will pounce on anything those little eyes see! Anything that we humans leave lying around, such as keys, coins, hair clasps, scrunchies, bottle caps, rubber bands and hundreds more everyday items, will be pounced on and bitten. It is not difficult to see that many of these items can hurt a kitten’s mouth and would be very dangerous if swallowed. If you know the kitten is playing with anything like this, remove it immediately.
If the kitten has swallowed an object, you may need a veterinarian’s assistance to remove it. If you are lucky, the object can be removed by inducing vomiting, but the kitten will more likely be facing surgery to remove it. One of the first symptoms that the kitten will display if it has swallowed something foreign is an attempt to vomit, but nothing will be regurgitated. Other symptoms to look out for are a painful belly, lack of appetite and lack of bowel movements. Try to ensure that small items are picked up before your kitten gets its paws on them!
Safe toys to amuse kittens
Many items around the house will provide endless hours of amusement for your kitten. All cats adore boxes, and for very young cats, any box will provide hours of entertainment. Tissue boxes, cereal boxes and so on will be thoroughly investigated and pushed around the floor. The tubes inside toilet rolls and kitchen towel rolls will move very satisfyingly across the floor and provide hours of fun.
Balls of all sizes will be appreciated. Ping pong balls or even a simple fabric ball stuffed with old rags, stockings or toy stuffing will provide a great deal of amusement for a kitten. Additionally, a soft fabric ball will be easy to pick up and carry. Even merely wadding up paper towel or aluminum foil will provide a simple ball for your kitten to chase.
Giving your kitten safe toys and allowing it to play is not only amusing for the owners but essential for the kitten.