Every time Kitten pounces on a toy, leaps from behind a door, darts out from under the sofa or runs headlong across the room she is in training. These activities are instinctual hunting skills- life skills needed by ancestors thousands of years ago in the wild.
Everything Kitten follows, chases, pounces on or shadows is potential prey and Kitten is doing exactly what her genetics have programmed her for. Play is the way Kitten practices her skills just as human children practice adult skills through their play.
Under normal circumstances, a kitten’s first playmates are its littermates and mother. Siblings are fun companions and nothing is cuter than a few kittens tumbling around and pouncing on each other. Cat Mom teaches limits and boundaries, especially when enough is enough with the teeth, claws and rough house.
In about 8-12 weeks kittens are fully weaned and have learned their manners thoroughly from Mom and human caretakers through frequent, appropriate handling.
But if a kitten is separated from family too soon she may not have had enough time to learn all the lessons to please her human family. A few steps can put Kitten back on track and turn aggressiveness into Miss Manners approved behavior.
Human hands, fingers and toes appear to be convenient play toys for Kitten but don’t let her bite and chew. Kitten teeth and claws are sharp and human skin is sensitive and soft. This is sending the wrong message.
Use a toy to train Kitten when it is the right time to exhibit hunting skills. Preferred toys keep your hands away from the bite zone. These include ones you can tie to a lace or attach to a “fishing pole” and drag across the floor. Kitten loves the game and you are away from teeth and claws.
Toss or throw a toy for her to chase. Sometimes she will even bring it back, imitating sharing her bounty with her family unit. This is an instinctual “provider” behavior. Reward her with praise. With a little work, you may be able to teach her to put away her own toys.
Kitten needs a self sized toy to wrestle with. Many soft, stuffed toys are available at pet supply stores. It is natural for her to bite, kick, claw and scratch at an object. It strengthens her muscles and helps her learn balance and grace. If you rub it on her belly she should latch on fast, so move your hands away fast. A long, thick oven glove may work, as long as you remove your arm quickly.
If she does bite or scratch you by accident, don’t yell or slap her. She is only doing what is natural for her. You don’t want to discourage her from loving you, just train her how to do it politely.