Now we’re going to talk about how to enjoy playing with your new kitten that does not involve restocking your first aid kit with band aids when you’re finished! In other words without the OUCH!
About kitten teeth
For those folks who have never experienced the joy (and sometimes pain) of owning a new kitten, it’s a good idea to know ahead of time how to play with something that can both cuddle up softly AND draw blood from your fingertip faster than a diabetes test kit.
Kittens have approximately 26 baby teeth (similar to needles) and 30 adult teeth. Their process of losing baby teeth basically consists of digesting them since they tend to fall out while the kitten is eating (Yuck!) Whether it’s dry kibble or wet pate’ kitty won’t seen to notice swallowing its own baby teeth since they’re tiny and will not likely fall out more than 1 or 2 at a time. The ingestion of its baby teeth will not cause kitty any harm, but the need to bite and chew to relieve teething pain may be painful for the novice or unprepared kitten owner.
Luckily for us the entire cycle of acquiring baby teeth, losing them, and erupting permanent teeth will be completed by the time kitten reaches 6 months of age.
Playing with a kitten during its fourth to sixth months of life will take patience and preparation but is also very rewarding, and once learned will last a lifetime. After all, there are not many things cuter than a tiny kitten with its tail straight up in the air like a flagpole running to greet you when you call her name. And kittens are smart which helps a great deal in training kitty how NOT to bite the hand that feeds it.
It’s NEVER acceptable to hit, spank or physically do anything which may harm a kitten in the name of training. All that’s needed is a fairly loud “OUCH” or “OW” if kitty begins to bite during play, and gently place her on the floor away from you.
It’s also not advisable to use your hands for play, rather you should always have a toy of some type preferably on the end of a wire or string to play with kitty. And don’t frustrate your kitten by never letting her catch it. After all the point is to build a strong bond as a pet parent while building kitty’s self-confidence. Her prey drive will only tend to become stronger if it’s never satisfied which could lead to more attempted bites, so you’ll end up defeating the whole purpose of your play training.
Timing is everything
A kitten younger than 6 months old will need a lot of sleep, like all babies do. So feeding time, play time and nap time should be constructed in a way that complements your schedule and fulfills the needs of a growing kitten and should generally occur in that order.
After a kitten eats a meal her energy level will be on the rise. You may find your kitten becoming a Tasmanian devil and creating the racetrack of her dreams, and your nightmares, which could include running from the floor across the back of the couch and up the drapes!
This is when your skills at distraction and redirection will come in most handily with that toy on a string. And if you prefer sleeping more than 4 hours a night it’s a good idea to include 15 to 30 minutes of play just before bedtime. Kittens should be able to give you a good 8 hours rest if they’re properly exhausted.
Play on the cheap
The investment in quality toys for interactive teaching play with kitty does not have to break the bank.
Several tried and true favorites include nothing more than the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet tissue tied to a 3-foot-long piece of yarn. A wadded up ball of aluminum foil about 2 inches in diameter also makes a safe toy that will keep kitty entertained. If you occasionally pick it up and roll it away to let her chase it you will become the source of her pleasure and strengthen the bond you have as her pet parent.
Other ideas include 2 or 3 strips of soft cloth rags tied together and than tied to a long piece of yarn or string; an old sock with the toe filled with catnip and tied closed with yarn, string or twine; a sock with the toe filled with a couple finely crushed ice cubes and tied off the same way…you get the idea. With just a few dollars and a little imagination there are multiple variations on these themes which can provide you and your kitten hours of interactive and painless teaching play.
Older kittens can actually be taught to bring their toy back to you for another toss much like a puppy plays fetch. This is best done with a soft plush toy filled with catnip and some treats to use as rewards when kitty accomplishes what you wanted.
Kittens: good for our health
It has been medically proven that at the end of a stressful day the love of a pet can be beneficial to our health by lowering our heart rate and blood pressure. When trained correctly our kittens, and later cats, can help calm our frazzled nerves, comfort us when we’re sad and love us unconditionally their entire lives.
Spending a little time initially learning the correct play training is a small price to pay for the dedicated lifetime of companionship with a loving furry friend.