How and Why Cats and Kittens Play plus VideoKeith
Cats, like all mammals, engage in play as kittens and continue to do so even when adults. Play is a complex learning activity that helps kittens develop social relationships and helps them hone their physical and mental skills. But it is also fun, which is why your adult cat continues to do it. You can spend many enjoyable hours just watching with amusement as your cat plays. Watching a cat play is one of the most entertaining pastimes afforded to the cat owner. A cat’s play takes three forms, though often it is sometimes difficult to separate them.
Social play is how kittens learn to interact with their siblings, their mother, other cats, other household pets, and you. During social play, kittens test their world and learn their place in it. Kittens develop personality traits based on their playful interactions that accompany them into later life. As a kitten grows, social play with littermates gives way to social play with their human owners, assuming that the kitten is adopted into a family and is not simply fending for herself.
Poking, batting, and tossing around small objects are ways that kittens learn about how to deal with prey. During such play sessions they develop the hunting skills that they might need if they ever have to provide for themselves. You may see your kitten stomp on her toys, flip them over, and circle them once they land – acts that mimic overpowering and killing a prey animal for survival. Object play teaches a cat how the world and things in it feel, what is animate and what is inanimate. She may jump up from her toys as if noxious, invisible rays emanate from them, and then dissolve into fits of sheer delight and discovery.
An active cat is a confident cat. The running and jumping of locomotor play helps a kitten increase strength, coordination, and flexibility. Locomotor play also stimulates a cat’s appetite while helping to keep her physically fit. In addition, locomotor play helps control boredom. An active play session at night can help reduce a cat’s nocturnal perambulations, which otherwise may keep the cat’s owner awake.
In addition to the physical lessons play teaches kittens and cats, play also teaches emotional ones. Kittens learn that playing is just plain fun and that it feels good to run, jump and cavort with other cats and animals, including human ones.