How to Stop Play Aggression Behavior Toward Humans
- Have appropriate toys for solo playtime. Encourage healthy solo playtime by having a variety of safe toys to leave around the house. You may have to experiment with some to determine if your cat has specific preferences but in general, cats like furry mice, lightweight balls, and other objects that can be easily batted around. Strategically place toys to encourage your cat’s enticement. Place a furry mouse on the end of a cat tree perch or have it peeking out of an open paper bag on the floor. Don’t just leave a pile of toys in a basket where they’ll gather dust. Additionally, don’t hold these small toys with your fingers in order to play with your cat. It can be too easy for an excited cat to mistake your finger for the toy and end up causing injury. These small toys are strictly for solo play.
- Have appropriate toys for interactive playtime. The safest and most effective way for you to play with your cat is by using a wand-type toy. This puts a safe distance between your fingers and the cat’s teeth or claws. The wand toy, based on a fishing pole design (wand, string, toy on the end), also allows you to control the movements to optimize your cat’s enjoyment of the game. You can maneuver the toy to go behind something to momentarily hide, have the toy wave in the air, dart inside an open bag or box, and make impossible-to-resist movements that resemble prey. An interactive toy allows the cat to stalk, ambush, bite, scratch and best of all, have a successful capture. In his enthusiasm, he also never has to worry about accidentally biting your fingers or causing injury. Interactive playtime should be done at least twice a day for about 15 minutes each but if you can squeeze in more playtime, that’s even better. What’s most important is that you establish a routine schedule so your cat benefits from daily enrichment, stimulation, success and FUN! Interactive playtime is also a great way to re-establish the bond between you both. If you’ve been dealing with play aggression then that bond probably does need a little repair.
- Provide more overall environmental enrichment. Part of the reason your cat may be engaging in play aggression might be due to a boring environment. While it’s much safer for cats to be kept indoors, the problem is it can be easy for them to get bored when cat parents haven’t created opportunities for discovery and stimulation. Provide a cat tree and window perches so your cat can look at the birds outdoors. If you have a multicat household, the more elevated areas you provide, the better. When you increase vertical territory it can help maintain peace and it will appear to the cats as if their territory has increased. Vertical territory also creates opportunities for climbing, jumping and playing.
- Spruce up the place. In addition to vertical territory, tweak the environment by adding tunnels for hiding, napping and playing. Cats love to check out enclosures and a soft-sided cat tunnel or even some open paper bags and boxes will enable your kitty to go exploring.
- Food enrichment. Satisfy some of your cat’s playtime desire by using puzzle feeders. Food enrichment toys provide a little bonus playtime with a food reward for a job well done. This is a totally natural concept for a hunter. If your cat eats too quickly, puzzle feeders can also encourage a healthier eating pace. You can make homemade puzzle feeders or you can purchase them. Some are made for dry food and some for wet.
- Timing is important. Pay attention to the times your cat seems the most active or restless and schedule your interactive play sessions for those times. If you’re only able to do two play sessions a day, my recommendation is to do one session in the morning before you leave the house for work and then a session in the evening. If your cat bothers you during the wee hours of the morning, schedule your evening play session for right before you go to bed and then offer him a meal.
- Encourage success and satisfaction. Whenever you engage in an interactive play session, whether it’s for a couple of minutes or a half-hour, make sure the cat has several successful captures. At the end of the game, wind the action down to help settle the cat and help him feel as if he has captured his prey. Don’t just abruptly end the game or else you may find that you’ve left the cat still revved up.
- Be prepared. If your cat tends to attack your ankles when you walk, or hides behind objects in order to ambush you, carry some small toys in your pocket so you can toss them away from you to redirect him toward acceptable play objects.
- Feline Friend. If you think your cat may be lonely, especially if you work long hours away from home or even travel quite a bit, consider adopting another cat. Many people mistakenly associate cats as being solitary but they’re really social creatures. Just make sure you take the time to do a gradual, positive introduction to address a cat’s territorial nature.