Cats are intelligent and agile creatures. During play, a kitten or an adult cat makes full use of its surroundings to provide itself with mental and physical challenges. Particularly attracted to moving objects, cats investigate new things on ground level or elevated surfaces alike. Play allows a young animal to practice important life skills without adult consequences. Running, jumping, hiding, and other playful antics could be invaluable later when hunting for food or escaping an enemy.
Play gives you an opportunity to teach acceptable behavior to your cat. Avoid forms of play that encourage a cat’s aggressiveness. No cat should learn that it is acceptable and fun to pounce on, grip, bite, or scratch any part of a person’s clothing or body. Such innocent fun as chasing waffling fingers or toes under the bedcovers could lead to problems later. The target of a cat’s playful attention should be directed away from its human playmate. Introduce a variety of toys for your cat to chase, such as lightweight balls or toys suspended from string or wire. Your cat can simulate attacks without risking injury to anyone.
Young cats often appear to respond to some “phantom” enemy during normal play. The pet may pause as if to listen or look at something and then race away. Some people believe that, during such episodes, the cat is reacting to an imagined object or intruder. It is also possible that the cat is responding to a real stimulus that people cannot understand.
Undesirable Nightime Activity
Juvenile cats are normally very active, sometimes overwhelming their owners. Young cats tend to be more active during evening and nighttime hours and frequently disturb their owner’s sleep. Cats are naturally crepuscular (more active at dawn and dusk) because they have adapted to hunting in relative darkness. If your cat is satisfied with the amount of attention and exercise it gets before your bedtime, chances are good that is schedule of peak activity will gradually match yours. If your young cat tends to nap during the day when you are home, wake up to play.
Though cats frequently seem to amuse themselves when there is no available playmate, they often thrive on additional social interaction with you. To increase your chances of sleeping through the night, play appropriate games with your cat and engage it in other activities it might enjoy, such as brushing, before retiring to bed. Provide a variety of attractive toys to entertain your cat so it is less likely to awaken you.
Once you have gone to bed, consistently ignore your cat’s attempts to get your attention and it will eventually stop disturbing you.
Preventing Damage During Play
“Cat-proof” your home by removing or preventing access to valuable or hazardous objects that will attract your cat. Apply screens on windows to prevent accidental falls or intentional escapes. It is normal for a cat to investigate elevated surfaces (tabletops, mantel) in its territory. Your valuable may be accidentally destroyed in such exploration, or the cat may destroy objects through playful mischief.
If your cat damages items in certain areas, it may be necessary to close the door to that room. Another option to discourage your cat from returning to an area is to make it an unpleasant place to visit. Strips of sticky tape placed sticky side up are an unpleasant surprise for cats to step on, as are cookie sheets filled with water. If your cat is destructive or harmful with its claws during play, keep them well trimmed to avoid damage.
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