Q: I adopted a tiny 8-week-old kitten last week. I already have a mellow 18-month-old blue Birman living in our home. The kitten is charging the Birman, biting his legs, tail or whatever he can get his teeth into. We have toys and scratching posts for him. How do I stop this behavior, is this normal?
A: Your tiny newcomer is exhibiting normal kitten play behavior. Kittens start playing as early as 4 weeks of age and the urge to play intensifies until the kitten is at least 1 year old. Some kittens engage in intense play until they are about 2 years old. And most cats will play to some degree the rest of their lives. Play is very important for your kitten’s social, mental and physical well being. Through play, kittens learn important hunting survival skills as well as social skills.
The older resident cat has become the unwilling recipient of the kitten’s exuberant attentions. If the Birman was about one year younger, he probably would have eagerly joined your new kitten in extreme play and energetic romps around the house.
Redirect your new little kitten’s intense play away from the Birman. An ideal solution is adding another kitten to the household who is between 12 and 16 weeks old. Since bringing in a new little one may not be an option, you can divert your kitten away from the Birman through multiple play sessions every day and with the addition of fun, interactive toys.
When playing with cats and kittens, use toys and not hands. Your kitten must learn that hands are not play toys, otherwise, he might bite or scratch you whenever he’s in the mood to play. Fishing pole toys are a winner with kittens. Play with your rambunctious kitten in multiple short sessions every day. You’ll find that your kitten will nap between sessions. For his safety, when you’re through playing, place the fishing pole toys out of his reach.
Your kitten will also enjoy tall objects to climb. Cat furniture with places to hide in, are popular with kittens. Boxes, paper bags with their handles cut off, igloos and tunnels also provide hours of entertainment for an active kitten. Wad up pieces of paper and throw it for the kitten to run after. Interactive toys such as ball and track toys, puzzle boxes and turbo scratchers will also help focus your kitten away from the older Birman.