With the tales of Cooper’s naughtiness, you may think he’s always a terror. Naw. He’s a terror about 20% of the time. And part of this is my fault. You see, I knowingly adopted a single kitten. Never adopt a single kitten if at all possible – always adopt 2. Not only do they communicate and co-train good behaviours that one learns and the other ‘just doesn’t get’, but they engage each other in the high-energy play activity that is natural to this age.
The high-energy kitten months last from about month 4 to month 15 – in my experience. Of course each cat is different – and you’ll have cats that are very-high energy and need a great deal of engagement (like Merlin) or cats who are curious and playful but never destructive (like Mouci). Some quiet down earlier and some keep their energy and kitten playfulness for years (like Nuala). Most fall in between.
When we had Merlin, I did a little reading about energy and engagement in young cats. One particularly good article recommended 45minutes each day of active, engaged play to help a high-energy cat expend the energy in an appropriate and positive way. I remember thinking 45!!! is a lot. I was at about 30min each day with Merlin and that was a lot – I often used da bird for 1-2 sessions of 10-15 minutes each day. Full-out highest level of activity I could safely have him do. Then there was chasing the mouse-on-a-stick – about 10 minutes every second day. 10 minutes cross-house treat chase daily (use lower calorie healthy treats if you can – since cheap treats are not good in quantity). And 10-20 minutes most nights with ‘the bug’. Ten fun fully-active minutes is longer than you think.
Boredom and pent-up energy seems to explode in naughtiness. So, Merlin needed it. More than I could give him. And he overpowered both my cats and scared them, so they couldn’t engage him and help use his play-energy. Cooper is not as demanding since he doesn’t have Merlin’s extreme level of activity and intellect. (I suspect that Merlin has calmed down some by now in his new home – but I’ll bet he’s still the smartest cat I’ve ever met.) Cooper is quieter and more gentle than Merlin. He doesn’t actively hunt or attack the girls for fun – he will playfully pounce Nuala, but relatively half-heartedly.
Another reason for two kittens is that older cats don’t want to engage with kittens – they are just too much for them.
Here is where I made a misstep. Nuala was extremely playful and pouncy until Mouci died in April 2015. She treated quiet, elderly Mouci as a mother and always curled up with her to co-clean but she engaged all her human friends for play. She loved all sorts of games and play. After Mouci died, Nuala became sullen. Merlin’s fostering was my solution – so she’d have new engaging company. That didn’t work: Merlin was play-aggressive. Nuala became more reserved, sad and quiet – even after Merlin left. Our Tigger had lost her bounce. She became even more loving and needy with us.
Merlin left in September and by December, we’d re-trained Shadow after her stress and trauma and were ready for a new kitty. We knew a kitten would be less stress for Shadow – small and less threatening. She could watch it grow with familiarity. Nuala (who was always so bouncy) could have a playmate and rediscover her bounce- albeit he’d be 3-years younger. The thing is that Nuala has passed that stage – and is more of a quiet and reserved kitty now. I never expected that. I didn’t expect that she wouldn’t want to play with Cooper. I’m not sure how I could have have known/anticipated/planned this better. Integrating cats based on their needs is never easy – even when you adopt specifically with your cats’ temperments and ages in mind.
Nuala is a very different kitty. Much more prim and proper – no longer the carefree tomboy we adored. I often wonder if it’s the loss of Mouci, age, or having to adapt to Merlin and then Cooper.
So – here we are – Cooper 8 months. Nuala 4 years. Shadow 13? 12? years. Will this work? Yes. Will it be easy – not really. Are we working at it? Yes.You can’t stop working… the first year is always the tough one. But all the work pays off forever after – you just can’t give up or throw up your hands.
The only way for us to balance Cooper’s energy is to let him run – to engage him in active play every single day. To give him things that engage his furry little mind and fast-moving paws. To help him be an ‘only child’ since he’s the only one at this stage. We’re in charge of his ‘zoomi moments’ – and we need to invest the interactive-time to balance this energy output.
Ideas to keep a kitty active:
- Give your cat interactive toys. Rotate through the toys you let your cat play with to keep your cat interested and excited about the toys. Also consider playing with your cat with prey-like toys (mouse-chase or bird chase games).
- Consider a battery operated toy that suits your cat’s way of play – it will give some exercise each day for a few minutes – but don’t let them have it all the time. It should be an augmentation rather than crutch of your ‘activities plan’
- Have scratching posts. Cats have a natural instinct to scratch. Provide a variety of surfaces for your cat to scratch.
- Don’t just give a treat- always have them chase it. It’s ‘capture and eat’
- Give your cat access to windows. Whether your windowsills are wide enough or you need to install a cat perch, having window access allows your cat to sunbathe and watch the outside world from inside. You can also install a birdbath outside the window to give your cat an ‘engaged watching’ experience.