Porky and Buddy Pet Health – Teaching Kittens To Play Nice

Dear Porky and Buddy,
I just adopted a new kitten, Harry. He is coal black, totally handsome, and was the last of his litter to be adopted. I think he must have been getting bored with no litter mates to play with because he seems to think I am his new litter mate, which I guess I am.  The only problem is while I love to play with him, he is a little rough – tying to bite me – not in a mean way but it still hurts and he is only eight weeks old. How can I get him to stop?

Dear Mary,
Thanks for adopting, especially a black kitten, as there are a lot of them needing homes. You are in not only for a lot of play, but also a lot of elegance. But this column is not about fashion advice.

Play is very important for growing kittens.

When they are with their brothers and sisters it’s how they learn how to socialize with other cats, the give and take of playing teaches them to be outgoing but not too rough.

When you play with Harry every day you give him appropriate outlets for his abundant energy and you are also providing him with that all-important socialization.

But you also need to teach him that play does not consist of attacking human hands.

So, first of all, don’t ever play with Harry with just your hands and feet. In his mind, a playful nip is indistinguishable from a painful bite and a toy is anything that is available to nip at. He will not understand that it’s not okay to chew on or bite people unless you teach him.

If Harry starts to play with your hands or feet, don’t pull your hand or foot away because he’s more likely to continue attacking a moving object and don’t hit him because that will only make him fearful.

Instead, keep your hand or foot limp and say “Ouch!” in a loud voice. Then, pull out the best toy in the world, say a feather attached to a wand, and play with him enthusiastically with that. You are teaching him that hands and feet are no fun, but toys are great fun because they never go limp and say ouch.

Kittens need active play and they also like novelty, so buy several different types of interactive toys for him and find out which ones he likes best.

You should play with the toys with Harry; do not just put them on the floor and walk away. He really wants to play with YOU and the toys are just a tool to do that.

If Harry seems to be getting bored with his toys put some of them out of reach, so that they are new and exciting when you pull them out later for a play session.

The same trick works for human toddlers, by the way.

If you do leave toys around the house for Harry to play with, rotate them every few days to increase the novelty factor for him.

The bottom line is that if you play with Harry regularly, you can engage him in fun before he has a chance to pounce on you.

Looking for a playmate of your own?

Check out our many cats and kittens for adoption at www.oswegohumane.org

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego, NY.

Phone: (315) 207-1070.

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.oswegohumane.org

Because People and Pets Are Good for Each Other!