The first step to reaching a solution is to more fully understand kitten and cat behavior. If you have a newly acquired kitten realize that Social Play begins at about 4 weeks of age and continues heavily until 12-14 weeks of age when it begins to slowly decline. Object Play (pawing, stalking, pouncing and biting objects) and Locomotor Play (running, jumping and climbing) develop around 7-8 weeks of age. These types of play behavior are very important parts of the kitten's physical and behavioral development and should actually be encouraged. We are usually very good at remembering to have "play time" with the family puppy or dog....when was the last time you scheduled a "play date" with your kitty?
A recent buzz word in Feline Behavioral Medicine is "Environmental Enrichment". We have all witnessed the changes that have occurred at our local zoos over the past few decades. Exhibits are looking less and less like prison cells
and more and more like the natural habitats these animals would live in---and
their health, longevity and well being are all the better for it. The same holds true for our feline pets. Problem behavior can be exacerbated or even caused by a lack of environmental stimulation (think boredom).....outlets for normal behavior must be provided and encouraged. A cat's natural desire to "hunt" is unlikely to be fulfilled by providing a single bowl of food in the house. Instead, consider using food toys (like the Pipolino Virtual Hunting Field or the SlimCat Interactive Feeder). Alternatively, dispersing smaller food bowls in multiple
locations (or even "hiding" food--in semi-obvious locations that your cat can
easily find) within the household can also help to encourage these "hunting"
behaviors. Play behaviors (chasing/stalking/pouncing) can be encouraged and directed toward moving toys such as ping pong balls, furry mice or toys attached to the end of a fishing pole instead of to our legs and feet.
In upcoming posts we will explore Nuisance Behaviors such as: Play Aggression, Scratching, Jumping on Counters, Excessive Night-time Behaviors and Feline Inappropriate Elimination. And for our dog lovers out there, don't worry...we will get around to: Jumping on People, Barking and Running Toward the Front Door, Mouthing During Play and Chewing.....stay tuned!