Why cats play has been argued by experts for many years. And how cats play can vary between kitties. For instance, kitten play aggression typically happens when the youngster targets your feet. Adopting a pair of kittens with proper introductions can reduce that. Nearly all cats, though, share the same techniques although they may incorporate them differently. Knocking items off of tables seems universal–I call them “gravity experiments.”
My cat Seren-Kitty played “gravity experiments,” knocking things off tables, until her last few years. At age 21, she finally slowed down. Before that Seren never had an off-switch and was a cat playing maniac from the moment she entered my home.
Now Karma-Kat has taken over the gravity experiments. *sigh* What’s the deal with knocking stuff off high places, anyway? It really does look like feline research, when the cat tap-tap-taps each item in turn, watches it fall to the floor (CRASH!), and then moves on to the next object on the mantel. Is Kitty just a slow learner? Is this feline entertainment? Or are cats simply evil?
HOW CATS PLAY
Adult cats fall into two very broad, general categories—ankle-rubber play fanatics, and kitty lounge acts who love lap-time nap time. Kittens are in a class by themselves. They can turn kitten games into a blood sport, technically termed play aggression. But overall, cat play keeps cats healthy both emotionally and physically.
Kitten development can be measured by the kinds of games kittens play. The earliest games are self-play with paw-waving belly-up postures similar to human infants enthralled by fingers and toes.
Object play develops as soon as the baby can paw pat, bite or toddle after objects. Sound and motion stimulate interaction.
Locomotory play means games that involve movement, and can be kitten solo games with objects or invisible targets, the baby’s own tail, or involve others.
Self-directed play includes tail chasing or pouncing on imaginary objects. Once the baby matures a bit, the self-directed games tend to go away unless the kitten is bored with no playmate around.
Social Play means plays nice with others—or not so nice. By the time a kitten reaches four weeks of age, they practice the pounce, stalk and pounce techniques, learn to grapple and bunny kick with rear paws, and boxer-slap with claws withheld. But social play peaks at 9-16 weeks of age, and decreases thereafter as the cat matures.
Why Cats Play
Based on the above cat-egories, I think it’s clear why cats enjoy gravity games. Scientist used to say play (in people and pets) served as a method for youngsters to practice grown up skills they’d need as adults. But they noticed that animals—just like people—continue the games even when they don’t serve that evolutionary purpose. Even feral cats and wild kitty species play once they grow up.
Why Cats Love Knocking Objects Off Tables
Gravity Experiments fall into several fun feline faves. Here’s why cats enjoy playing gravity games.
- Gravity games refine paw-swat coordination and tones muscles and trims down tubby tabbies when they must climb to reach attractive targets.
- Kittens and cats learn consequences through play. Interaction with objects teaches them about the world, and that paw-swats make objects fall to the floor with a satisfying SPLAT!
- Fun and games relieve kitty stress. And humans watching cats have fun can reduce our own anxiety—as long as the kitty play is “legal.”
- Play strengthens social bonds. That means it builds friendships between pets—and between you and your cat.
- Gravity games garner lots of attention. When you laugh, yell, become hysterical over paw-patted-broken objects, and chase kitty around the house—mee-WOW, that’s value added to the game!
Life’s too short to stress all the time. Play is good for us, and if you have cats, gravity happens. Place breakables are out of paw-reach, so Kitty can conduct stress-buster gravity experiments safely.
So, do your kitties conduct gravity experiments? Do tell! Learn more details about all things kitten in the book, Complete Kitten Care!
Note: A version of this post first appeared on FearFree/HappyHomes.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!