How to Prevent Kitten Play That's Too Rough

tabby kitten playing with larger cat

Kitten play is a very important and fun part of a young feline’s life. Teaching kittens proper play skills and playing with them every day will give them appropriate outlets for their energy. But what happens when kitten play seems too rough or aggressive?

Preventing aggressive kitten play

To decrease the chance that your kitten will seek out human hands and feet as play toys, don’t ever play with your kitten with your hands and feet. In your kitten’s mind, a playful nip is indistinguishable from a painful bite. They won’t understand that it’s not OK to chew on or bite people unless you teach them this.

If your kitten plays with your hands or feet, make your hand or foot go limp (a kitten is more likely to continue attacking a moving object) and say “Ouch!” in a loud voice. Then, pull out an interactive toy, such as a feather attached to a wand, and play with the kitten vigorously. You are teaching them that hands are no fun to play with, but interactive toys are great fun because they are a challenge.

Toys for kittens

If you play with your kitten regularly, you can engage them in fun before they decide to pounce on you. Kittens need active play and they like novelty, so offer several different types of interactive toys to your kitten to find out which ones they like best.  

You should play with the toys with your cat; do not set them out and expect your cat to play with them on their own. If they’re not interested in the toys for the first few days, give them time and try different toys.

One way to keep a kitten from getting bored with toys is to put some of the toys out of reach, so they are new and exciting when you pull them out for a play session. If you do leave toys around the house for your kitten to play with, rotate them every few days to increase the novelty factor. Toys that encourage the use of multiple senses (i.e., sight, smell, hearing, touch) are often exciting for kittens.