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Why Do Kittens Play So Rough

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Kittens play rough as a form of mock aggression, which is normal and helps them engage with other kittens and develop social skills.
  • Aggressive behavior in kittens can be triggered by fear, anger, irritation, or feeling ignored.
  • Genetic factors can also influence aggressive behavior in kittens.
  • To teach your kitten to play nicely, provide regular play sessions for mental stimulation and an exciting environment with various toys.
  • Encourage your kitten to bite toys instead of your hands or feet, and consider adopting another kitten for companionship. Avoid punishing or sniffing the kitten, and pay attention to their body language to understand their emotions.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Sunday 31 December 2023
Last updated on
Monday 30 October 2023
Why Do Kittens Play So Rough
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Let’s be honest: kittens are lovely until they start attacking your feet as you walk by, scratching furniture, or picking fights with other kittens. But why do kittens play so rough?

Though kittens have different levels of athleticism, most play rough when they’re between six months and one year of age. If you don’t teach your kitten to play nice, their aggressive behavior may become more severe. 

Keep on reading to find out why kittens play rough in detail. So, without any further ado, let’s dive right in!

Why Is My Kitten Playing Rough and Aggressive?

It’s common for kittens to play rough as they have mock aggression. This is a condition in which they appear aggressive but do no harm to anyone. It’s simply how kittens play and engage with each other and their owners.

According to an article published in the Journal of Feline Medicine, kittens are even more likely to display aggression when there’s another feline present. It helps them engage with members of their own species and develop their social skills. Also, it’s normal for kittens to play rough when they spot an insect, a stray cat, or anything interesting through the window. 

But if kittens start growling or try to harm each other, the play will likely turn into aggression. They may behave aggressively for several reasons, like when they’re scared or angry. It’s also common for kittens to act rough when irritated or teased

Another reason kittens start to play rough, or growl is when they feel ignored. They need a particular level of mental stimulation to stay happy and maintain the positive play. Not receiving enough of it can cause them to start biting, scratching, kicking, and whatnot – basically anything you’d see as aggressive behavior. 

Moreover, aggressive behavior among kittens is also influenced by genetic factors. A study from 2011 reveals all felines undergo genetic changes that trigger aggressive behaviors. Though it varies from kitten to kitten, most undergo genetic changes at around one year old, the same period they’re most aggressive. So, if your kitten is under 1 year old and seems to be a little cranky nowadays, then it might just be that it’s undergoing genetic changes and learning how to display emotions and conduct itself.

How to Teach Your Kitten to Play Nice

Teaching your kitten to play nicely is essential to prevent aggressive behavior. If you do not teach your kitten to control its anger, it may lead to a host of aggression problems down the road. Here are some steps to follow when teaching kittens how to play nice:

Fulfill Their Enrichment Needs

According to research published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, one of the main reasons a kitten misbehaves is a lack of mental stimulation. Your kitten may play rough if it doesn’t get enough playtime throughout the day. So, it’s essential to have regular play sessions with your kitten daily. 

It’s recommended to play with your kitten a few times every day, for around 15 minutes each time. A ping pong ball is a great solution. Bounce it on the floor or wall and let your kitten chase it. You can also try hiding a stuffed toy under a blanket so your kitten can jump on it and find the toy. 

Manage an Exciting Environment for It

You cannot be available to play with your kitten all the time. So, it’s highly recommended you create an interactive and fulfilling environment for your pet to stay excited and playful when you’re not nearby. 

Start by providing your kitty with a variety of toys. Consider small and interactive toys like ping pong balls, round shower curtain rings, plush toys, bell balls, colorful mice, and teaser wands. Stuffed socks are another great option. 

The general rule is to ensure there are enough toys your kitten can wrestle with, bite, and chase to fulfill its entertainment needs. As a result, the kitten will be less frustrated and aggressive when you’re around. 

Encourage It to Bite the Toys, Not You

It’s not uncommon for kittens to play with the feet and hands of their owners. But it can soon become a habit, and your kitten may bite, scratch, and attack you. So, encourage it to wrestle with its toys instead of you. This will help fulfill its mental stimulation needs. 

Also, keep your pet busy with new objects to investigate, such as paper bags and cardboard boxes. Whenever your kitten tries to catch you aggressively, redirect it to its toys and other distractions. 

You can also consider adopting another kitten as a playmate to engage with your current kitten. Kittens in pairs do better as they tend to be healthier and happier. Moreover, leaving your kitten in a protected outdoor space will allow them to explore other exciting activities like chasing insects to prevent aggressive behavior. 

What Not to Do When Teaching Kittens to Play Positively?

When teaching your kitten to play, it’s essential to avoid certain practices that can lead to aggressive or fearful behavior. Here are a few things to avoid:

Don’t Punish the Kitten

It’s crucial never to punish the kitten when training it to play nice. Hitting, swatting, or another form of physical punishment can make your kitten angry or afraid. Both these conditions lead to aggression and can negatively impact their behavior. So, be sure only to use positive teaching techniques like giving treats. 

Don’t Snuff the Little One

Many new pet owners try sniffing their kittens to make them calm. It can lead to adverse effects and cause fear and anxiety in the feline, damaging the bond between you and your kitten. As a result, your kitten may misbehave even more frequently. 

Don’t Ignore Its Symptoms

Understanding your kitten’s body language can help you understand its behavior and respond accordingly. Its posture and facial expressions can give insights into its emotions and moods. If your kitten seems uncomfortable or frightened, stop the play. 

Why Do Kittens Play So Rough: FAQs

Below, we’ll answer the most frequent questions regarding why kittens play rough. 

Do kittens grow out of rough play?

Most kittens grow out of rough play between 1-2 years old. They’re the most aggressive between six months and one year of age. But some kittens are more playful and keep up with their rude and seemingly aggressive behavior for over 18 months. 

What is too-aggressive kitten play?

Too aggressive kitten plays include biting, scratching, and serious ambushing. When a kitten gets aggressive, it may attack your ankle or hand. While doing so, it will have its tail held out, stiff, or curled around its body. A kitten may do so when it’s annoyed, scared, or angry. 

Is it okay to let kittens play fight?

It’s okay to let your kittens fight as long as they’re just playing and not getting aggressive or harming each other. If you hear them growling and notice they’ve flattened or held back their ears, the play has turned into a fight and needs a stopover. 

How do you tell if kittens are playing or fighting?

If kittens seem relaxed with their ears and tails straight up in the air, likely, they’re just playing. But if there’s a lot of hissing, they flatten their ears or hold them back and start growling.

What age are kittens most aggressive?

Kittens tend to be most aggressive when they’re between 6 months and one year of age. But they grow out of biting and scratching behaviors between 1 and 2 years old. That said, kittens start biting when they’re about 3 weeks old. 

To sum up, kittens play rough for many reasons, like socialization, genetics, surroundings, and moods. It’s important to provide your kitten with appropriate toys and play activities. This will help them express their natural instincts and behaviors in a safe and controlled manner.

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