April 2009 Issue

Entertain Your New Kitten!

Play is fun for both of you ó but more importantly, it serves an important purpose in her healthy development. Here's why.

Perhaps the most endearing characteristic about kittens is their propensity for play; every kitten seems to be hard-wired to appear especially cute and to play unabashedly. It isnít until youíve been awakened at midnight with little kitty claws batting at your toes, however, that you begin to realize the very real need kittens have for play. Itís not just something they do to fill the time; they will set their alarms two hours early to ensure that they have plenty of play practice time! And, just like any small child, if a kitten is not given plenty of appropriate ways to play, he will find even more inappropriate ways. Dr. Julia Albright, Resident in Animal Behavior at Cornell Universityís College of Veterinary Medicine, explains why play is essential for kittens. "It provides social interaction, exercise and appropriate expenditure of energy. Cats are very good at finding inappropriate means of expending exuberance (i.e. attacking your leg!) if not given object play. It also allows them to learn bite inhibition; orphaned kittens are often very aggressive and bite very hard as adults." Dr. Albright relates that, "Play involves components of adult behavior such as hunting (stalking, pouncing, biting, etc.) and is hypothesized to be practicing of these skills." So it is extremely important to provide appropriate outlets for a kittenís seemingly endless desire to play if you want a well-adjusted addition to your family.

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