Play Aggression in Cats

Cat Exercises & Play >

Luckily for us, at least we don't seem to be the subjects of juvenile cats' sexual rehearsals, but the attack-retreat and predatory behaviors alone are sometimes more than enough.

What to do

  • Avoidance. This is a good strategy for either type of play aggression. Learn to "read" your kitten's behavioral signs prior to an attack-retreat type of incident. Observe the kitten carefully for the flashing eyes and switching tail, especially during petting, and know that these signs signal the end of what may have been a peaceful moment. STOP petting the kitten immediately and stand up. Enough is enough. Regarding the ambush-type attacks, think ahead, wear thick socks around the house and keep your eyes peeled.
  • Diversion. The very best diversion is to get another kitten for your kitten. Though you might think your problems would be doubled, in fact they will be halved, or they may disappear entirely. The two kittens will appreciate each other's antics much more than you do. They can learn together, and have the benefit of furry coats to protect themselves from the brunt of the assaults. If getting another kitten is not something you would or could consider, then you need to provide appropriate outlets for your kitten's need to play. Play with your kitten using mobile toys for 20 minutes each day to release pent-up energies and to allow him to exercise his chasing, catching, and "killing" drives. Engage such measures particularly if you see "that look" in his eyes – the one that tells you an attack is imminent.
  • Be patient. Play aggression will eventually go away. Don't give up on your kitten because he is doing what comes naturally.


    The really good news is that play aggression is a passing phase. However, don't let yourself become a victim. That can create dominance issues later in certain cats. Also, rough play can cause injuries to older people, whose skin is more delicate.

    You should always manage your cat properly, avoid unwanted incidents, and provide suitable outlets for its biological needs. In this way, you and your cat will be able to live together in mutual harmony without having to run the gauntlet each day.

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