Dear Pet Column, I just adopted my first young cat. He is usually friendly unless I try to play with him, at which point he usually ends up scratching me. I am wondering if it is ok to roughhouse with cats or does it trigger their hunting instincts?
Sincerely, Perplexed About Play
My name is Nico. As a two-year young cat here at Second Chance I can offer the perspective of a cat who has matured past the rough and tumble kitten stage but still remembers what made it so fun and fabulous. Let’s start with yes, playing does trigger our hunting instincts, but this is a good thing. It lets us connect with our often hidden and neglected inner purposeful natures.
The thrill of the hunt for a feline would be likened to the thrill of the completed painting for the artist, a tasty gourmet dish for the cook, or a record-breaking victory for the athlete. It pulses from our heart and soul, links us to our ancient ancestry, and thus needs to be unleashed on a regular basis for our mental, physical and emotional health.
Now that you understand the theme of our play, hunting, you can focus on how to simulate a hunting experience for your cat in a manner that keeps your skin intact. The best way to prevent getting scratched during playtime? Keep your skin away from your cat’s claws.
Do this by using toys that best simulate the hunting experience. Fishing pole toys are particular favorites for the frisky feline. They can imitate the noise of bird wings flapping and soar about the room for your cat to chase or they can simulate a rodent and scurry about the floor for non-airborne hunting. Your kitty will focus on the toy and not your flesh.
If your kitten decides to use your leg as a tree trunk to capture its prey – re-position yourself and redirect your kitten’s attention away from your leg. As with dog training, positive redirection rather than negative punishment brings the best results (and is the most humane).
Additionally, it is important to be considerate of your cat’s self-esteem and competency and allow Fluffy to catch the object of prey from time to time. Let your cat knock it about with its paws on occasion, then with a quick jerk let the bird/mouse escape and the chase is on (my tail is twitching just thinking about it…)!
For the happiest of cats, several play sessions a day is ideal. You will likely be surprised by significant behavioral differences if you make this a regular routine. Just like the dogs here at the shelter, cats become much more happy and relaxed after being exercised and allowed to flex their muscles and instincts.
So Pet Column readers, please remember when adopting a kitten that they need this playtime. I am still a playful boy and thus more than willing to serve as volunteer to help you learn how to play appropriately with cats. I am also great company for those who work from home as I assist my shelter staff at the office all the time. What I am really trying to say is, pick me, adopt me.
Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops have been servicing San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties for over 26 years. Call 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about our Community Medical, Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, or other services. View our shelter pets and services online: www.adoptmountainpets.org.