Friday, 27 July 2018

Kitten Academy: Learning through play

Follow the progress of kittens Apple and Apricot over the next few weeks in our Kitten Academy series.

Playtime is definitely high on the agenda for kittens Apple and Apricot as they turn five weeks old.

Apple comes running as soon as she hears her shiny ball rattling, sometimes speeding straight into her mum, sister or other objects in the pen as she makes her pursuit. Apricot is also getting more curious about her toys, but prefers to play it cool and casually wander over for a sniff and half-hearted swipe of her paw when she feels like it.

black kitten
Apple is a bundle of fur end energy

Play is important for kittens as it allows them to exhibit their natural hunting behaviour and develop their eye-paw coordination. It also helps them to burn off lots of energy, keep their brains active and it causes the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins.


grey kitten
Little Apricot is getting more playful
To make sure playtime is kept fun and interesting, the kittens are given a selection of different toys to play with. The best ones encourage them to stalk, chase, pounce and ‘kill’, such as fishing rod toys, balls and puzzle feeders.

Sometimes, Apple and Apricot mistake fingers and toes for fun toys to play with, but it’s important to discourage this by keeping your digits as still as possible and distracting them with more appropriate toys. Having a kitten nibbling on your fingers may seem harmless now, but if they learn that this behaviour is acceptable, they will continue to do it when they’re fully-grown adult cats – and that would be much more painful!


black kitten
Apple has found the perfect box to hide in
As well as pouncing on their toys, Apple and Apricot also like pouncing on each other for a play-fight. This helps them to learn important social skills, including something called ‘bite inhibition’. Kittens often don’t realise how sharp their teeth are, but by playfully biting their siblings, they soon learn when they’re biting too hard! Apple usually has the upper-paw in play-fights due to her size, but will back off when she hears Apricot squeak. Her little sister will usually then get her own back by sneaking up on Apple and pouncing on her tail. Meanwhile, mum Annie watches on, enjoying a break and bit of a fuss while her kittens amuse themselves.


black cat
Annie enjoys a break from her energetic kittens
When they’re not having a rough and tumble, the kittens are becoming much more comfortable with being stroked and picked up. While being handled, they’re also being introduced to gentle health checks, such as examination of sensitive areas like the ears, feet and tail, to help make future vet visits less stressful.

Come back next week to find out Apple and Apricot are getting on when they turn six weeks old!

For more information about caring for kittens, visit the Cats Protection website.

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