Kittens are curious, energetic fluffballs with boundless energy. A safe, enriching environment can cater to your kitten’s playful side, stimulate them physically and mentally, and benefit their health and development for the rest of their life.
Tips for Creating a Safe, Enriching Environment for Kittens
Keeping your kitten indoors has significant benefits because it protects them from a large number of dangers. But without all the sights, sounds and smells of nature, a kitten needs other ways to stimulate their mind and body.
To build your kitten an enriching environment, provide them with safe places for hiding and resting, like window ledges, carriers or perches. Your kitten should feel protected in their safe spots and may prefer an enclosed resting area. While kittens spend a great deal of their time sleeping, their periods of wakefulness can and should be used to stimulate psychological and physical activity.
It’s important to create stimulating places for entertainment and play, as well. Cats can benefit from spaces at different vertical levels, like cat trees and perches. A variety of scratching posts can teach your kitten appropriate scratching while nurturing their natural instincts, and protect your furniture and carpet from their sharp claws.
Many cats also benefit from social activity with other cats, especially if they were introduced to other cats early in life. Providing your kitten with another kitten or young cat as a play buddy can help meet their need for near-constant play and motion. Keep in mind that cats put a premium on managing space, so it’s important that multiple-cat homes offer a variety of places to hide, sleep and observe, using both the horizontal and vertical dimensions.
Engaging Games and Toys for Kittens
An important component to enriching your kitten’s environment is socialization and play, especially if your kitten is the only animal in the household. A kitten’s natural predator-play behavior is usually easy to stimulate with interactive toys, such as wand toys or balls to pounce on or chase.
Games for Kittens
Playing kitten games with your pet helps them develop coordination and natural hunting skills. It also can help them learn boundaries and develop a bond with their new owner. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes of structured playtime two or three times a day. One way to prevent the “nighttime crazies” is to engage in active, vigorous play before feeding your kitten at bedtime. This helps wear out the kitten before bed and mimics the natural hunting-feeding-grooming-sleeping sequence in cats.
Engaging games to play with your kitten include:
- Hide and seek: Call your kitten to you; this may be easiest at mealtime. When your kitten comes running, move to a different room and call again. Reward them for finding you with a fun toy or treat.
- Fetch: Toss a toy across the floor for your kitten to chase. When they “catch” the toy, call them back to you. If they bring the toy back to you, reward them with praise or treats to reinforce the behavior.
- Paper bag prey: Place a paper shopping bag on its side, and gently scratch the sides or put a toy inside to encourage your kitten inside. Poke and scratch the outside of the bag while your kitten happily pursues the unknown “prey.”
Keeping a Kitten Entertained While Alone
A greater challenge is providing enrichment opportunities for kittens when a person or another pet is not present to interact with them. Puzzle toys are one option to fight kitten boredom. These toys come in a variety of designs to entertain your kitten and reward her with a treat or food, such as IAMS™ Proactive Health™ Mother and Kitten. This offers twofold benefits, providing play and proper nutrition for supporting a kitten’s energy and playtime.
Kittens and cats will spend a great deal of time watching the outside world through windows, especially if there’s a bird feeder or butterfly garden within view. Make sure to keep at least one window blind open — especially if it looks out on an area with frequent movement and activity. There are also a number of “cat TV” videos of squirrels, birds and other nature scenes available online to keep a cat entertained.
Providing your kitten with enrichment opportunities helps prevent stress and the development of abnormal behaviors. Growing from a kitten into a cat in an enriched environment with lots of physical and psychological exercise supports the overall well-being of your pet at all stages of her life.