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Why kittens like to play and scratch

Playing and scratching are natural behaviours for kittens and adult cats.  Cat Vet Dr Kim Kendall, Chatswood Cat Palace, explains why kittens like to play and scratch.

Why kittens like to play

why kittens like to play and scratch

Photo: Koen Eijkelenboom/Unsplash

Playing is a very important part of the physical and mental development of all animals.  The play is always relevant to future activities essential to species survival so it comes down to food and water acquisition, escape and social interaction including sexual, affiliative (friendly) and agonistic (aggressive) behaviours.

Kittens have to learn the rules of play and if you are the only moving object in the house, then ‘Tag, you’re it’! As the playmate, you had better teach and learn the rules fast or get another kitten to play tag.

Learning play-rules is particularly important as we humans have been selecting for cats who remain kittenlike for a lot more of their life.

Since there is no need to hunt anything harder than the fridge to get the food, all that hunting instinct is transformed into play.

Why kittens like to scratch

Claws grow continuously which is why kittens and adult cats have to scratch!

However your cat is not just filing her nails when she shreds your furniture, she is also leaving her mark for cohabitants. It is much easier to encourage your cat to use a scratching post or something she is allowed to scratch from the start than it is to train her not to use the armchair.


Consider building a catio for your cat to play and scratch outside in a secure area.

Did you know? 

A kitten is genetically programmed to pounce 30 times a day as this is the average number of pounces it requires to catch a full day of rodent meals!