Play, Hunting And Scratching – Fun Times For Kittens

One very common misconception amongst cat owners is that feeding your cat more food will stop them hunting birds and wildlife. In fact the motivation for hunting has nothing to do with the cat being hungry. Cats are solitary hunters and if they waited until they were hungry before they tried to detect and dispatch prey they would run a very high risk of dying from starvation. Prey may be unavailable when hunger strikes. Instead the cat is ready to hunt at all times and when movement and sound combine to trigger their natural instinct, even the best fed and pampered pet will not be able to resist the desire to pounce. It is best to try other means of preventing hunting if you are concerned, such as restriction of the cat in its environment, bells on their collars, and other play toys for distraction and which allow the cat to use their natural instincts in a more acceptable manner. Confining your cat indoors or in an outdoor run or enclosure may be the best solution to prevent your cat from hunting.

Playing with Kittens
Playing with Kittens

Play is a vital outlet not only for feline hunting behaviour but also for mental stimulation. Cats need to be offered small rapidly moving targets on which to practice their eyeing, stalking and pouncing skills. They should also be given the chance to catch some of these items so their toys must be suitable for the purpose (e.g. toys on strings or poles).

In the wild, cats can spend many hours a day hunting (depending on age), and so play indoors for cats needs to reflect the importance of this activity time. If you make the decision to keep your cat indoors, you will need to provide your cat with the appropriate amounts of activity time as well as toys that will provide sufficient mental as well as physical exercise to keep your cat happy.

A lack of opportunity to hunt imaginary prey can result in the cat showing predatory behaviour towards any available moving object in their environment, including their owner’s hands, feet and ankles. If you encounter this problem it is important to reassess your home through feline eyes and to see if you are providing the right sort of stimulation for your cat. If problems persist, do not hesitate to discuss them with your veterinarian. Referral to a veterinary behavioural specialist may be required.

Scratching for pleasure
As a member of the cat family, your kitten needs to scratch as a way of making themselves feel comfortable in their home territory, as well as a way of shedding loose claws. Providing a ‘scratching post’ at an early age will help to divert this activity away from expensive furniture. There are many different types of scratching posts/apparatus available (i.e. vertical, horizontal, material etc) so it is worth speaking to your vet about what may be suitable for your kitten and your home environment.

The most important things to check are that the scratching posts are stable, are placed in an area that your cat wants to use, and are of a material that they find attractive. Cats love to shred the material so when the scratching post becomes worn and torn it is probably most meaningful for the cat.

Territory marking also occurs when your kitten rubs itself up against you and furniture. They are marking you and the house by using their facial glands, with the calm familiarity of their own pheromones.


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