When cats play, it can look like an uncomfortable, nail-filled affair for everyone involved. To some extent, this is normal. When cats start getting excessively rough during playtime, however, you may be in for trouble. Cats that play too rough can easily harm themselves, their feline friends or even their human companions. Additionally, since rough play may be an indicator of a behavioral issue, it is important to address it if your cat begins exhibiting violent play behavior.
All cats play, as they should, and some cats play rougher than others. Regardless of whether your cat lives alone or with other felines, you have probably seen him engage in two very different types of play: social play and solitary play. Solitary play involves batting a toy mouse around the floor, racing up a cat tree, leaping into the air to catch a fly or swatting a discarded scrap of paper around the floor.
Social play, on the other hand, involves another animal or person. During social play, your cat may tackle and bite his feline friend, bat at the dog’s tail as it wags or attack your feet as they move beneath the covers. Thanks to their sharp claws, pointy teeth and amazing agility, however, cats can easily get too rough during social play.
Is it Aggression or Just Rough Play?
If you have a kitty that plays too rough during social play, there is a very real risk that the cat will harm you or one of his feline friends. Rough play behavior needs to be reduced and the first step toward doing this is ruling out a behavioral issue.
Cats who are afraid, in pain or aggressive will often act out in the form of rough play. Fortunately, it is easy to distinguish a cat who is being legitimately aggressive from one who is simply playing roughly by paying attention to body language. Aggressive, scared cats will pin their ears, snarl, bare teeth and act in self-defense rather than good-natured play. If your cat exhibits these behaviors, a trip to the vet is in order.
Tips to Reduce Rough Play Behavior
Once you have ruled out genuine aggression, it is time to begin reducing your cat’s tendency toward rough play. To do this, provide your cat with plenty of fun, engaging toys that will trigger his prey drive and provide an outlet for playful behavior. Spend some time each day playing with your cat.
Use a long, dangling toy to encourage the cat to play with an inanimate object rather than batting at your hands and get up and walk away if the cat begins to bite, scratch or attack you. Additionally, it is important to remember that stopping rough play behavior means that you should never encourage a cat to bite your hands or any part of your body.
If your cat’s rough play behavior has become a problem, utilize the tips above to put an end to the pattern. If all else fails, do not hesitate to call in a kitty behaviorist to help you ensure your cat’s play patterns are safe, fun and comfortable for every member of the household.