Rough Play: How To Teach Your Kitten To Play Nicely


“We just love her, but oooh those teeth and claws are sharp!”  I’m sure if you’ve ever owned (or been owned) by a kitten, then you’ve uttered those words quite a few times. Kitten scratches and bites can be quite painful and that’s for us as adults, so for a child, it’s worse. So what should you do with that unruly bundle of fluff when she’s trying to eat your fingers two at a time?

two kittens playingKittens just love to play and as their play is a part of honing their hunting skills, then biting and scratching does form a part of their experience.  However, it is during their early formative weeks (from about 6 weeks onwards) that they also learn the boundaries i.e. how hard is too hard and why biting your mother can get you a swat in the ear etc.

Sometimes however, their rough play can be transferred from their siblings and mum to you and unlike their furry relations, who have thicker skin and fur to cushion those little needles, you don’t!  This is where you need to take on the role of Mum Cat and teach that baby some manners.

Teaching them the boundaries

1. A squirt won’t hurt

Using a spray bottle with water to squirt your kitten is not harmful to them in any way.  However, when also combined with a very firm NO! it is even more effective.  So keep one handy, and use it when baby is biting or scratching more than they should.

2. No hitting!

Just because they are behaving aggressively doesn’t mean you should.  In fact it is definitely not a good idea at all.  Besides frightening the kitten or possibly hurting them.. it can also be seen as a sign of oneupmanship and they will come back even harder. Keep it calm and walk away.

3. Distraction

Distracting your kitten when in an overly playful mood is one of the first things you should try.  Find a toy they are particularly fond of and use this as a means of diverting their attention.  Very soon they will get the message that playing with the toy is much more fun.

4. Everyone needs a friend

Some babies really miss the company of other kitties and getting them a friend to play with can be the ideal solution to those chewed fingers and toes.  There’s also the added benefit to you of having more to cuddle lol.

5. Timeout!

I’ve found that with many kitties a little bit of timeout works wonders. So if your baby is being particularly rough, pick him up and place him in a safe area by himself for awhile… or… remove yourself from the situation.. he’ll soon get the message that rough play is not ok.

6. A reward for good behaviour.

Some kitties are very treat orientated, so if you need to train your kitten, then maybe a little bit of a treat when they are being especially gentle will help them understand more quickly what is expected.  Only appropriate treats please!

7. Plenty of play timekitty playing

We all love to play with our kittens, but make sure that the play is appropriate.  Use teaser wands and toys that keep your hands out of harm’s way.  Short bursts of play time.. especially before bed are a great way of tiring them out and helping them sleep soundly.  It’s good for the bond you are forming with your baby too.

Tips for playing appropriately with your kitten

  • Look no hands – Never use hands or feet etc to play with your kitten. It’s too much of a temptation for them to bite and scratch.  Always use a toy, that way your extremities won’t become playthings.
  • Stop staring, it’s rude! – Staring directly into a cat’s eyes is a sign of aggression in cat language.  All will feel at best uncomfortable and will look away, but many will see it as a threat and some may retaliate.
  • The proper equipment – make sure you have plenty of teaser toys, wands etc for playing with your kitty.  They also love toys that move, so wind up mice etc are a great choice.
  • Neat & Trim – You should be doing this anyway, but please ensure you cut your kitty’s claws.  This will at least minimize the damage if they do happen to get you whilst playing.  Even young kittens should get used to having their nails seen to.  I find a nail file very useful for little fine claws in the early days. If you aren’t sure what type of clippers to use, then please see the range in the grooming section.  They’re all kitty friendly products.

Hopefully with these hints and tips at your disposal, you’ll have your kitten behaving itself in no time.  Good Luck!


Leave a Reply