5 Games to Amuse Your Kitten

Kittens are experts in the art of play.

So much so it seems as if kittens eat, play, use the litter box, play, sleep, and play some more. Play helps your kitten grow stronger, develop coordination, and use up some of that never ending energy kittens have. Although kittens can amuse themselves by playing with anything, it’s important to your budding relationship to make sure you are a part of your kittens play. Ideally, your kitten will look to you as someone to play with as much as the supplier of cuddles, food, and water.

When you play with your kitten, keep safety in mind. Although kittens are fast and agile, they are also fragile. Games that are too rough can hurt the kitten. Plus, kittens are easily frightened and if scared at this age, a fear might continue through the kitten’s life. Plastic grocery bags, for example, are bad toys because if a handle of the bag gets caught around the kitten’s neck or around a leg, the kitten could run, the bag will chase her (as far as the kitten is concerned) and panic the kitten who could run, jump, and climb in fear until she tires, the bag comes off, or she hurts herself. When choosing games and toys, make sure the kitten will be safe when playing.

Catnip and Catnip Toys


Catnip is an herb and is safe for both kittens and cats; usually making them euphoric. Cats and catnip go together; especially if you look at cat toys in a pet supply store as there are often more catnip toys that any other kind of toys. However, most kittens aren’t attracted to this herb until about five to six months of age and a few cats never are. My two year old cats, brothers named Spock and Scottie, don’t care about catnip at all; however, my previous cat, Xena, loved it and would roll in it, purring, even as an arthritic geriatric cat.

If you are a gardener and grow your own catnip, pinch off a leaf or two, crush the leaves to release the sap (and odor), and give those to your kitten. Most pet supply stores sell dried catnip. That can be sprinkled on your kitten’s bed or toys. Stuffed toys can purchased with dried catnip inside or you can loosen a few stitches, stuff some catnip inside, and sew the seam closed. You can also rub catnip into your kitten’s favorite toys.

After your kitten has played for a while clean up the excess catnip. Even though your kitten will have fun with it (once he’s old enough to be attracted to it), don’t offer the catnip every day. You want your kitten to be able to play without having to have catnip. It can be addictive for some cats so every two or three days is fine.

Flirt Pole Toys are Wonderful


A flirt pole is a toy that is much like a small fishing pole with a toy at the end of the string rather than a hook. You play flirt pole with your kitten by flitting a toy back and forth so your kitten can chase it. Some of these come from the store with a large toy on the end and for cats this is fine. For your kitten, replace this bigger toy with a small toy your kitten can grab with his claws and his claws won’t get stuck in it. Tiny (two to three inch) soft toys work well.

Begin by twitching the toy back and forth in front of your kitten. If she’s young, two or three months of age, just move the toy a few inches to begin with. You can move it more with an older kitten but don’t be so aggressive with it that you discourage her. As your kitten begins to chase it, let her win and grab the toy. After she kicks it, bites it, and has some fun, then begin flitting it back and forth again. If your kitten doesn’t get a chance to win and catch the toy, she’ll lose interest.

When you’re not playing with your kitten with the flirt pole, put it away where your kitten can’t get it. You don’t want her to get tangled in the string.

Laser Toys have Pros and Cons


Laser toys, those flashlight like toys with a red laser light, can be great toys. Most kittens are eager to chase the light. If you move the light gently enough so the kitten can keep track of it and follow it, she’ll play with it until she’s tired.

However, there are three drawbacks to the laser toy. First, never shine the light in your kitten’s eyes as it can damage her eyes. It’s also important to watch your kitten to make sure she doesn’t become so focused on the laser that she won’t play with anything else. If you see signs that your kitten is like this, stop playing with her with the laser. Last, some kittens lose interest in the laser toy because they never catch anything. They chase that red light, and chase it, and chase it some more but never catch anything. If you see your kitten getting frustrated, toss a small toy in front of her and let the red light rest on the toy. Then praise her for catching it and play with her with the toy.

Play with Commercial Cat Toys


Many commercial cat toys are designed to attract the cat’s attention through catnip, sounds (such as crinkles or bells), bright colors, and interesting shapes. Other have strings, feathers, or other items to gain the cat’s attention.

Although this is good for when the kitten is left alone, and it’s much better the kitten play with her toys rather than your valuables, it’s still important to be involved in your kitten’s play. So when you have time, jingle the toy and toss it so your kitten chases it. Encourage her to bring it back (yes, many cats can learn to retrieve toys) and when she does, throw it again while continuing to praise her.

To keep your kitten interested in her toys, rotate them. Offer two or three toys at a time, encourage her to play with them, and then after two days put those toys away. Bring out two or three other ones. Play with those and again in two or three days, put those away and bring out some others. By rotating the toys, even old toys can be fresh and interesting again.

Household Items are Good Toys


There is a commercial on television right now showing a cat owner unpacking a cat toy and when the toy is made available, the cat ignores the toy and jumps in the cardboard box that used to hold the toy. Cats (and kittens) love to play in paper grocery bags (with the handle removed), cardboard boxes, and empty cardboard oatmeal containers. Toilet paper and paper towel cardboard tubes, and the tubes from wrapping paper are also great fun. These are also usually safe toys. The only reservation would be to make sure there are no staples or other dangerous things in the items and make sure the box is not too large that a kitten gets trapped in it.

You can make these items more attractive by tossing some kitten treats inside or sprinkle some catnip if your kitten is attracted to it. A favorite toy inside a cardboard tube will also garner the kitten’s attention.

 

It’s easy to play with kittens. They are tiny, athletic, and want to play. Plus, those big eyes just melt your heart when you look at them. So have fun with your kitten; just keep safety in mind when choosing toys and playing with your kitten.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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