In too many cases, it is we humans who are, perhaps unwittingly, responsible for a great deal of play aggression. Sometimes kittens are adopted too early, often around six to eight weeks of age. It’s detrimental to a kitten’s continuing social development for her to leave her mother and littermates before she’s twelve weeks old.
Another way we can help further the socialization that will guard against future behavior issues is by promoting the adoption of two kittens. By adopting two kittens, you will allow them the chance to continue to develop their social skills and decrease the likelihood of behavior issues developing later on. Your kitten also won’t get so bored that she must direct all her playfulness onto you. I have always felt that taking a kitten away from all of her littermates was an unnecessary trauma. I strongly recommend a twofer adoption. The best course is to adopt two kittens from the same litter, but if that’s not possible, pick up the one in the next cage at the shelter. Adopting two is even helpful for socialization when one or both kittens is already older than twelve weeks. Two kittens are just more fun, both for you and for the kittens, than one.
Owners who roughhouse with their cats too much during play, unable to resist the fun of wrestling with a tiny, toothy ball of fur, need to switch to more appropriate forms of play. I’ve heard more than a few owners admit that they hand-wrestled with their kittens, using their hands to roll the kittens around as the kittens (still gently) bit and clawed at them. When the cat is still a kitten, this can all be great fun. How cute! But be careful how you train that budding tiger. Even with dogs, many researchers and trainers strongly believe that supposedly violent breeds are not so much genetically violent as conditioned to violence by their owners.
Owners who don’t play with their kittens at all also need to change their behavior. The kitten instinctively has to practice hunting and looks for the best target. A moving target is best, of course, and you can’t just leave a catnip mouse toy on the floor and expect the cat to get what it needs. If you’re not engaging your cat in interactive play with wand toys and other moving targets, then your moving feet and hands may become the targets of choice – by default.
Luckily the behavior issues related to inappropriate play aggression can easily be reversed or improve, and all without declawing your cats, as some ill-informed cat owners do. In fact, declawing can cause a cat to use its teeth more.
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