Playtime for Kittens and Kids

Follow these expert tips for developing playtime routines with children and kittens.

By Pam Johnson-Bennett

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One technique that I used with my children was to cut a hole in the bottom of a sturdy paper bag or box, set it on its side and then have my kids wiggle a feather in and out of the hole. The kitten will love diving in and out of the bag and the kids usually get quite a fit of the giggles as they watch the kitty. We also set up some flexible cat tunnels (available at pet supply stores and online) so the kids can have the toy wiggle around in there and peek in and out.

If the child is old enough, it's important to teach the lesson about letting the cat have successful captures throughout the game to avoid frustration. I explain to my daughter that it's no fun if the kitten never gets a chance to pounce on the toy just as it's not as much fun for her when older kids never let her have a chance with the ball.

I took my children to the pet supply store and we picked out special toys together and that also raised their interest level.

One note of caution: don't allow children to use laser light toys with kittens. The laser light can be dangerous if the children shine it in the kitten's eyes.

One of the best ways for children to learn how to play with kittens is to watch you so make sure you are using the correct technique. If you are using your fingers as toys then your children will pick up on that and that certainly isn't what you want them learning.

Also explain to children that kittens need lots of sleep and time to eat and use the litter box as well so playtime sessions should be short. It's better to do many little sessions throughout the day to avoid exhausting the little kitten. It's also better to do a playtime before or in-between meals but not right after a meal.

As for the appropriate age to start including children in interactive playtime, you can really do it as soon as the children seem interested. You should always supervise though and teach your children that interactive toys are special and need to be kept in a safe place when playtime is over. This is for the safety of the children and the kitten because of strings, long poles and other things that can become dangerous in the wrong hands. Before teaching playtime techniques to children though, the first lesson should be to teach how to pet the kitten (if the kitten likes it) and how to always be gentle. The combination of good playtime techniques and gentle handling will go a long way in helping kittens develop trust. That can be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Best,
Pam Johnson-Bennett, CABC
IAABC-Certified Animal Behavior Consultant

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Reader Comments

Sara    Atlanta, GA

4/25/2007 4:06:21 AM

Great information. I'd like to see how to introduce cats to new babies too!

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