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The Importance of Play in Cats

Whether it's puppies, kittens or children, Nature insists on play. Play is a requirement for healthy development of a loving personality as well as for a healthy body. In addition, play is the basis for a social structure. Individuals of any species that do not play when they are young are severely mentally and socially compromised when they become adults.

Socializing should begin no later than three weeks in kittens, or six weeks in puppies.
Pets who learn to play early, and play a lot, tend to retain that playfulness later in life. This has several benefits to the pet:

  • Cardiovascular development
  • Balance and coordination
  • Joint lubrication
  • Hunting and fighting skills

Aggressive Play
In cats, because they are not pack animals, kitten play in the wild gradually becomes more aggressive to drive away potential hunting competitors. This results in distinct hunting domains, and is the reason cats are often referred to as "asocial." The reason many cats are so social with people is that they perceive them as "part of the family" and therefore fully accepted and loved. This can be undone by aggressive "slap" boxing by people playing with cats.

Aggressive play allows the cat to show aggressive symptoms toward humans, and enjoy doing it!  Aggressive play in kittens may also lead to aggression in adults.

Multiple Functions of Play:

  • Exercise (Cardiovascular)
  • Neurological coordination
  • Hunt skills
  • Fight skills
  • Flight skill
  • Social development

Pets who learn to play early, and play lots, tend to retain that playfulness later in life. This has several benefits to the cat.

  • More fun in life
  • Owner usually enjoys watching, so pet is more entertaining (increases bond)
  • Owner often has more personal satisfaction (vicarious fun)
  • Easier and more fun for the owner to exercise the cat (throw a ball or drag a string)
Pets that don't have sufficient opportunities to play when young, are more likely to develop behavior problems later in life.

CAT PLAY (Studies from the wild.)

  • Play begins at six weeks as play fighting
  • At five months, fighting becomes more aggressive
  • Leads to territorialism
  • Leads to the reputation for cats as being independent

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