a white and black kitten takes a swipe at a mouse fishing rod toy

How to play with your kitten

A kitten’s life is all about playing and having fun. We'll cover why kittens play, what play looks like to kittens and how you can play with your kitten in a safe way.

How to play with your kitten safely

Always use toys as this keeps your kitten’s teeth and claws away from your hands. It also helps to:

  • throw toys away from you, so that they have to chase and pounce on them
  • place tasty treats inside some toys. This adds an extra challenge for your kitten, as once they have chased and caught the toy, they have to work out how they will get to the reward inside
  • play for a few short sessions every day
  • allow your kitten to catch and grab the toy at the end of each game
  • provide a variety of toys
  • use fishing rod toys to keep your hands well out of the way
  • never force your kitten to play or be trained

Find our top five recommended cat toys.

What do kittens learn through play?

Before kittens go to their new homes, they play with their siblings and their mum. This includes biting and general rough and tumble play. It's how they learn boundaries. It’s usually at this stage that they:

  • learn to control their bite and use of claws
  • learn social and communication skills

When they do go to new homes, the focus of this play can be transferred on to us. So, it is extremely important that we continue to ensure that they play with us in a safe and appropriate way.

How do kittens like to play?

When they are in the litter, kitten play is all about pouncing, stalking, chasing and wrestling with each other at first. 

As they get older (from about 10 weeks), their play is mainly directed towards objects, which they:

  • stalk
  • pounce on
  • bat
  • grasp
  • bite

Why is play good?

Play provides an outlet for your cat’s hunting instincts. It can also:

  • ease boredom
  • prevent behaviour problems
  • provide exercise
  • reduce weight gain and future health problems

This is especially important for cats without access outdoors.

How to stop your kitten playing with your hands or feet

If you have a kitten that seems focused on hands and feet, don’t punish or tell them off. 

Follow these simple tips to redirect their focus:

  1. Remain as still and as quiet as possible until they stop playing with your hands. This way they will learn that hands and feet are boring.
  2. Then, refocus their attention on to a suitable soft toy 
  3. Praise them enthusiastically
  4. Repeat this until they learn that playing with toys is much more exciting and fun


Never encourage a young kitten to play with your fingers, hands or feet. It might seem funny or harmless at the time, but that will soon change when you have a large adult cat that chases, bites and scratches people.

How to stop your kitten clawing at furniture

We have some great advice on how to stop your kitten clawing and scratching your furniture. It can help to provide a scratching post, even if your kitten is able to go outside. 

Read more about how to stop your kittens clawing furniture.

Kittens playing with other pets

Some particularly excitable kittens may try to play with a family cat or dog. If your other pet is happy to play with your kitten, just be sure to always supervise them in case things get out of hand.

If your kitten is pestering your other pets, get your kitten's attention and distract them away by using their favourite toy.

Repeat this process until the kitten learns that playing with you is much more fun than playing with them. You’ll also find that your other pets will be more accepting and tolerant of your kitten if you help them out in this way.

— Page last updated 27/01/2023