is a 4-month-old kitten who has lived with us for about 2.5 weeks. She is very social and loves to be near us. However, she wants to wrestle with/pounce on EVERYTHING, most especially our hands and (bare) feet. I know that this is very normal kitten behavior (she came from a house with 3 other young kittens, so she is used to having a lot of playmates). I want to set her up for success by combining (1) LOTS of playtime with appropriate toys, (2) positive reinforcement for good behavior (praise for letting us pet her without trying to play with our hands, etc) and consistently enforced consequences for bad behavior (saying a sharp "ow" and calmly placing her down on the floor when she pounces on/nips us).
My question here is more about the playtime, especially particular toys that might be useful. One thing that we have noticed with Kirby is that she will sometimes be in a clearly playful mood, but will not want to chase or play with her usual toys. We throw the little ball, she just looks at it. We toss the crinkly thing, she bats it one time and then just looks at us. If we try to pet or sit with her when she's in this mood, she immediately wants to nip at our hands, so she's clearly not ready to settle down, but I'm at a loss for how to engage her appropriately. What are some toys that we might be missing here?
She has the following, all of which are engaging at least some of the time: tinfoil ball, crinkly ball, scrunched up paper, wobbly ball with base (like so
), cat tower. She has a wand toy that we will use to play with her and which is definitely her favorite toy, but we hesitate to overuse it (what if she gets bored with it?? The horror!). We play with the wand 1-2x per day, about 20 vigorous minutes per time.
One thing I am specifically wondering about is "wrestle play." We noticed that Kirby is REALLY wanting to wrestle with things (our couch pillows are a frequent target, much grabbing and biting). Again, I recognize that this is normal and this is likely how she used to play with her littermates. Because of this, and to save our poor pillows, we gave her an old stuffed bear that has become her nemesis. She attacks Mr. Bear regularly and with vigor, and we will redirect her to him if she's going at the pillows again. However, sometimes she's in the playing mood but still won't go for Mr. Bear. I have read elsewhere about people using hand puppets to play wrestle with their kitten, allowing for a more animated opponent but limiting damage to human limbs. However, my boyfriend and I are both hesitant to give mixed messages about whether playing with hands is okay. If you have used hand puppets, did you find it made inappropriate biting/playing with hands a problem?
We love Ms. Kirby very much, and she is a fun addition to our house. We want to start things off right with her. We are unfortunately not in a position to add another cat/kitten to the household, but we try to provide several hours of dedicated playtime each day to make up for the lack of feline compatriots. Any feedback would be much appreciated!