Modifying Your Kitten’s Rough Play

Play-motivated aggressive behaviors are common in young cats less than two years of age, and in cats that live in one-cat households. When cats play they are blending a number of behaviors such as exploratory, investigative and predatory. Play provides young cats with opportunities to practice skills they would normally need for survival.

Kittens like to explore new areas and investigate anything that moves, and may bat at, pounce on and bite objects that resemble prey. Kittens learn how to inhibit their bite from their litter-mates and their mother. If humans play with a young kitten using their hands and/or feet instead of toys, the kitten is liable to learn that rough play with people is okay. In most cases, it’s possible to teach your kitten or young adult cat that rough play isn’t acceptable behavior.

Encourage Acceptable Behavior

  1. Redirect your kitten’s aggressive behavior onto acceptable objects like toys
  2. Drag a toy along the floor to encourage your kitten to pounce on it
  3. Toss toys for your cat to chase. Some cats may bring it back to be thrown again
  4. Another good toy is one that your kitten can wrestle with and grab it with both front feet, bite it, and kick it with her back feet
  5. Encourage your cat to play with a “wrestling toy” by rubbing it against your kitten’s belly when she wants to play roughly – be sure to
    get your hand out of the way

Discourage Unacceptable Behavior

  1. Use a squirt bottle filled with water and squirt your kitten with when she becomes too rough
  2. Redirect the behavior by giving your cat a toy to play with instead of attacking your hands or feet
  3. Withdraw attention when your kitten starts to play too roughly (you can do this with dogs too)
  4. Do not flick, smack, or tap your kitten to correct behavior; it will backfire
  5. Picking up your kitten to put her into a “timeout” does not work because your cat might think it is positive attention

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