How to Know Normal Play Between Cat and a Kitten

Here are signs of normal play between cat and kitten:

  • There is no hissing or growling
  • Minimal biting which doesn’t cause harm
  • Ears positioned slightly backward
  • Taking turns dominating each other

After the normal play, the cats go back to their normal activities. They may be seen grooming each other.

Don’t allow a cat and kitten to fight.

Living in a multi-cat household, you are probably used to seeing your cats playing with each other.

Play provides them with opportunities to develop physical coordination, and problem-solving skills.

But sometimes it can be difficult to know when these felines have crossed the line. You might be worried if the older cat is playing rough with a kitten.

As your cat and kitten chase each other and there is occasional hissing, you may wonder if your cats are playing, or fighting.

In this article, I will tell you what normal play between a cat and a kitten is.

Keep reading, to know when the play turns aggressive.


1. Body language shows if its normal feline play

If you want to know what normal appropriate feline play is, observe closely the body language of the two cats playing.

If a cat and kitten get along or are the best of friends, they will not be aggressive when playing.

You know if it is normal play between the cats if there is:

  • No Hissing
  • No Growling
  • Ears positioned forward or upright or slightly backward, which is often seen in a mock fight
  • Belly up, which is not a submissive position in cats
  • Minimal biting which does not cause harm
  • Claws unsheathed
  • Body positioned forward

It’s also important to take into account the overall relationship between the two cats. If they normally sleep together or groom each other, then it means they are a bonded pair that gets along.

When it comes to the rules of fair play, your cats should take turns dominating the other. The game will also start and stop at various intervals.

Cats that are play pals will not avoid each other after a game session. You will see them cuddling or grooming each other. Sometimes they may even share the same food bowl.

After a normal play, the two cats will return to their usual activities.


2. Rough play is normal between cat and kitten

Older cats may play rough with kittens because their play normally consists of mock aggression.

Stalking, chasing, and pouncing each other is a normal part of social play among cats.

This mock aggression can often result in a cat and kitten engaging in rough and active play.

Cats are born to be hunters, and this kind of rough play, such as stalking, and biting is to be expected.

There is no reason to be worried because this provides an excellent avenue for learning. Your cats later develop healthy playing skills as each of them takes turns dominating the other.

However, oftentimes miscommunication may arise; these bites and scratches might become serious and result in physical injuries. 

But once your cats have mastered what is acceptable play behavior, they control the intensity of the biting, scratching, and wrestling.


3. Play sessions occur between cats of the same social group

Cats will often have play sessions, as long as there is another cat to play with. This is true especially if the cats are of the same social group.

Two cats are considered of the same social group if there is grooming, touching of noses, frequent playing, and any combination of these behaviors.

Littermates have the strongest bonds, but even a mother and her kitten can be the best of pals.

It is also possible for your adult cat to accept the kitten you have just adopted, and they act in the above-described behaviors.

As these cats of the same social group play, an occasional hissing may be heard. Sometimes it may just be a result of a misread play cue.


Don’t allow fights between cat and kitten

If you notice a hostile environment, and the cats want to fight, don’t allow your adult cat to swat or hiss at a kitten.

Stop the cats from fighting by clapping your hands loudly.

Separate your cats for a while until they have calmed down.

If you really have to, you can do a quick squirt of water at the cat, but this really is a last choice solution.

Don’t attempt to stop the fight with your hands. This can cause injury to your hands or arms. Worse still, one of the cats can jump to your face.


How to Know if Your Cats are Fighting or Playing

If your cat and kitten get along, you may have watched them play on several occasions. But sometimes, as cat owners, the playtime may look like it has crossed over into aggression.

We are often left unsure if our cats are having a good time, or it is a physical battle that requires our intervention before one gets hurt.

First, it’s important to remember that playtime between cats is not expected to be gentle.

Even between kittens, it might seem a bit rough. That’s why we often misinterpret it as aggressive play.

Cats that are unfamiliar with each other will not typically play together.


Why a Cat May Keep Biting a Kitten

  • Female cat transporting her kittens

It can be worrying to see your older cat keep biting your kitten’s neck. If the kitten is hers, she normally carries them by the scruff.

Mother cat carries her kitten by the neck to transport them. She cannot hurt them by doing this.

A cat knows the precise pressure to place on the skin at the back of her kitten’s neck. They also have pressure sensors on their teeth.

That’s why cats can carry a mouse in their mouth without making a scratch. People should never carry a cat like this, only a mother cat can do it.


  • Male cat asserting dominance

If your male cat keeps biting a kitten, then it could be that he is trying to pick up the cat as he wants to mate with it.

However, if he does it often, it means your older tomcat is trying to assert dominance over the kitten.


A Kitten can Bully an Adult Cat

Although the play is normal among cats, kittens are more energetic and playful than adult cats.

Young cats spend a lot of time and energy learning how to use their muscles, and athletic skills.

They might want to play all the time, even when the adult cat doesn’t feel like playing. Soon, the adult cat starts to feel harassed, and may even resent the kitten.

Male cats can engage in mock fight play well into their teenage hood. Female cats become less interested in this kind of play when they reach 2 years.

What seems like a simple game might turn out to be a nuisance for your older cat. The kitten will follow around them everywhere, pouncing on its tail, trying to initiate play.

If you don’t do anything about it, the adult cat will avoid the kitten and a great rift can develop between them.


How to Meet the Needs of Your Cat and Kitten

There are several ways you can intervene and help mend the relationship before your kitten drives the adult cat bananas:


1. Provide plenty of toys for your kitten

Dangling wand toys to engage the kitten is a great way to expend its energy. This will help your kitten develop the habit of pouncing on the toys instead of chasing the adult cat’s tail.

Play is an important part of a kitten’s growth. So, while you can’t completely suppress the behavior, you can channel it appropriately.

Play provides a kitten with an opportunity to explore the environment. Predatory play is an important part of a kitten’s early learning.

However, your adult cat may not fill the needs of a playful energetic kitten. You can provide them with toys to keep them busy when the adult cat needs some peace of mind.

When choosing a toy for your kitten, the first thing you want to ensure is that it’s not something they can swallow. So the toy cannot cause choking.

Buy large toys such as a tall cardboard scratcher on which they can claw at. Feather wands are also a favorite for most kitties.

Treat dispenser toys encourage your kitten to exercise while eating.


2. Show both cats love and attention

Spend time with both pets to assure them of your love and attention. Feed and play with each cat at the same time. When cats begin to live together, they may play fight, or compete for toys and attention.

Sometimes an adult cat can refuse to accept a new kitten because they are jealous of the newcomer.

Perhaps the older kitten feels it is getting less attention than it used to.

As naturally territorial creatures, your older cat could also see the new addition infringing upon its position in the household hierarchy. This can be quite distressing.

Play with both of your cats and reward them with treats after a play session. Make it a point to seek out both of them each time you come home from work.


3. Provide a hideout for the older cat

If the older cat keeps running away from the energetic kitten, provide a safe outlet where it can escape.

A private room where the kitten cannot access would be a good idea. Making the older cat feel secure is an essential part of keeping a balance between your two cats.

Make sure they sleep in separate rooms. Give them time apart.

A high perch can also be a good place for your cat to observe the kitten for a while. It is also a good retreat when your cat needs to get away from an annoying kitten.


4. Separate food bowls

Your kitten should have its food and water bowls that are not in the same location as your cat’s bowl.

Feeding them in separate areas ensures your cat doesn’t become territorial about its food. Your kitten might be tempted to eat the food, which can result in further tension. 


5. Litterbox for each

Each cat should have its litterbox. Even cats that are siblings from the same litter will at times need their own space.

When it comes to something as private as elimination, sharing the same litter can be stressful for some cats.

A multi-cat household should have a litter box for each cat plus one extra box. That means you can have a litter box for your older cat, one for your kitten, and an extra one.

Place the boxes at different locations. Even if the two cats are using their litter boxes at the same time, they should not see each other.


Don’t Leave the New Kitten and Cat Unsupervised

It is not a good idea to let your kitten and cat play together unsupervised. A male cat might harm kittens they have not sired.

Although not all male cats act this way, and some have even been seen acting fatherly towards kittens, anything is possible. Just to be on the safe side, supervise the interaction of an adult cat and kitten.

You can only leave them together after you have watched several safe direct interactions between the two.

If you are worried that the adult might harm the kitten but can’t supervise them, it’s better to separate the felines.

You can keep the kitten in a room with all its necessities as you go to work, or as you sleep.


Introducing New Kitten to a Cat

Various situations could see you owning more than one cat. Perhaps you have an adult cat and have adopted a kitten.

Or you decided to bring an extra cat to keep your kitten company.

Whichever of these situations you find yourself in, you need to know how to properly introduce these two felines.

An adult cat and a kitten are cats with an age gap. This means they have different interests, behaviors, and outlooks.

Remember, the introduction of a new pet can cause stress to the established cat. If you help ease the transition, you reduce the need for either of the cats to feel the need to bully.

Here is what you can do:


1. Make sure you are ready

As cat owners, sometimes we assume that our cats will get along and play amicably. But before you bring in an extra cat, make sure you are prepared. Think about the personality of the cats you already have.

The decision to bring in another cat should be based on how your cat reacts towards other animals, and its personality.

Be prepared to lose a bond with the only cat you had when you introduce another one. These two can form a friendship, and you feel left out.

Some animal behaviorists feel that it’s better to pair older cats with kittens because the older cat will teach the kitten as it grows.

Others feel that the older cat will lose all the time and attention it used to receive from the owner.

If you are unsure about this, consult your vet to help you decide the cat match that’s right for your household.


2. Provide the new kitten with a safe space

The first important thing to do is to always provide your kitten with a safe space. This helps your cat get a sense of familiarity, and offers a place to retreat if the resident cat’s actions become overwhelming.

Choose a room that is securely shut off from the rest of the house. The resident cat might be curious, and want to see the new kitten.

This safe room should have all the food and water bowls and a litter tray. Keep plenty of toys too to keep the new kitten occupied.

If you have an in-screened porch, this will be better because the cats can view and smell each other with no chance of altercation.

Preparing your home will take time, consistency, and patience. It takes several weeks for cats to acclimate to new surroundings.


3. Handle vet visits right away

If possible schedule a vet’s visit the same day you intend to bring the new pet home. If you take it to the vet after they have met with the resident cat, you will have to pause introductions that have already started, which is not a good thing.  

This vet visit should include a wellness exam, any important vaccinations, and discussions on how to neuter/spay the kitten if they have not yet been fixed.


4. Make good first impressions

Before you let the two cats meet, you can let your resident cat sniff a toy or towel that belongs to the new kitten.

This makes them get familiar with the new kitten’s scent. Let the resident cat explore the empty carrier you used to carry your kitten when bringing it home.

Remain calm and relaxed, so your cat and kitten do as well.


5. Stay patient throughout the introductions

Many cats learn how to live together. In no time you will see your cats playing with each other. But before you reach this point, you might need to be patient with both cats.

The older cat might feel its space is being violated, while the kitten might be struggling to get used to a new environment.

Ensure you have the time and resources to handle this process with care, and compassion.

Writer: Flora Ojow

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