brain teasers for kittens
June 3, 2016 6:54 PM   Subscribe

We have a very active six week old kitten. What puzzles are age-appropriate for this kitten? I need more ways to redirect this cute kitten from tantalizing wires!

We've tried and had successes with:
- balls of paper
- pens
- ribbon
-that long paper that comes off the top of the litter bag
- the terrain of a baby gate
- laundry basket
- a scarf
- dry kibble in a plate of water

We've already got them happy not typing on a computer, yes sitting on our shoulder, wearing a harness, and we're working on going to the big scary great outdoors with the leash.

kitten (last week)
posted by aniola to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Be careful with thin ribbons or other stringlike stuff – a cat's tongue papillae make it hard for them to spit things out, and they can end up swallowing stuff like that and getting into trouble.

Any pet shop should have fake fur mice, variations on balls and other bouncy things. Also the Cat Dancer costs about three bucks and offers endless fun. And then there's cheap pointer "lasers" which you can use for the kitten to chase that elusive red dot.
posted by zadcat at 7:05 PM on June 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Get an empty tissue box. Put things inside it that the kitten can grab: treats, mouse toys he can get with a claw, even an individual tissue or two. Make sure you stay nearby in case the kitten gets his head stuck inside. If this happens, immediately hold the box so he can extricate himself; if he gets too scared he may not want to play again.

Food puzzles are awesome.

Please, please get the book "Clicker Training for Cats". It's _incredibly_ easy to do and your cat will _love_ it. I have started with kittens about this age -- very short sessions to start -- and they are always so quick to master the basics!

(Oh, I once was _storing_ a long white costume feather boa inside a tissue box -- it fit perfectly -- and a tuxedo kitten found the box inside a closet, grabbed the boa, and ran all over the house with it. He was extremely proud, and it was extremely hilarious.)

Google "teach cat to fetch"

Here's a page I made about keeping cats un-bored.
posted by amtho at 7:08 PM on June 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

Cat dancers, for the win. Second that anything string-like with a kitten that age is asking for trouble. Also, there are a kind of crinkle balls with fabric and something like foil which somehow make all cats crazy with Happy.

I ended up putting bitter tasting stuff on my wires as a backup for both my dearly departed cats. I only had to keep doing it for a month or two, and they never went near wires again.
posted by frumiousb at 7:10 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

(I can get books so book suggestions are welcome, but it'll take at least a week for them to show up on hold at the library - that's a very long time in the life of a kitten! Consider string-like concerns noted and distractions from those requested, too)
posted by aniola at 7:11 PM on June 3, 2016

I just looked up cat dancers and our kitten already has a homemade one.
posted by aniola at 7:14 PM on June 3, 2016

Boxes of various sorts: boxes the kitten can jump into with paw sized holes in the sides for the ambushing and sealed boxes (again with holes in the sides) that contain toys.

A few layers of tissue paper layered on the floor

C or S shaped scratchers. The S shaped ones are particularly awesome because they are caves, beds and mountains all in one. Either shape is good training for his/her future scratching post.

Captured ball tracks

A few thoughts:
Make sure to remove ribbon from the kitten's reach when you are not holding the other end, they are an ingestion hazard. Avoid strings and yarns entirely.

Six weeks is awfully young to be away from the mother. Kittens taken too early often develop personality/attachment issues so it's good you're working hard at keeping the kitten busy. Err on the side of playing very gently with him/her as we are big, s/he is a baby and s/he doesn't have a mother cat to teach him/her that s/he is playing too rough. Rough play in a kitten is cute but the same play pattern in adult cats can cause serious injury to people.

We've already got them happy
I'm hoping the ambiguity about the kitten's gender isn't because s/he hasn't been to a vet yet. If s/he hasn't been in for a checkup yet, many vets offer a reasonably priced well-kitten package (call around). Alternatively, your local animal shelter offers low cost spay/neuter and vaccinations.
posted by jamaro at 7:15 PM on June 3, 2016

Also, for keeping your wires away from tiny sharp teeth: split-length cable looms. Available at big box hardware stores and ikea. A home made alternative is running your cables through several TP/paper towel tubes but it doesn't do much for your decor.
posted by jamaro at 7:19 PM on June 3, 2016

Our kitten has several cardboard boxes and a modular wire mesh shelving turned on its side.

We're using "they" because our kitten hasn't told us what pronoun to use. We have a vet appointment scheduled and right now what we need are more brainteasers for kittens.
posted by aniola at 7:20 PM on June 3, 2016

Ping pong ball, bathtub with drain plugged. Kitten in tub, introduce ball with some energy, and voila! Kitty jai alai! Also, ping pong ball in aforementioned empty tissue box. Either are loads of fun for kitty/you.
posted by dbmcd at 8:01 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Be careful about that shelving. Kittens get their little legs stuck inside things al the time, and more easily and often than you'd think. He could climb or jump up into the edge of a shelf and stumble off with a foot caught between the wires, then be confused and panicky and flail around and dislocate something. Kittens and wire shrugging can mix badly... They're smart and not smart at the same time.
posted by amtho at 8:03 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ice cubes in the bathtub -- my adult kitten still comes running if she hears them.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:20 PM on June 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Every kitten I've ever met has been crazy about those Turbo Kitty ball toys that jamaro mentioned. To the point that I started to hate the Turbo Kitty after the nth night of being kept awake by "whrrr whrrr SLAM."

My cats have also loved the plastic rings from milk jugs. The tiny mice you can buy in supermarkets have always been popular as well. I think they smell exciting and they're a good weight to zoom across the floor when batted at. My current cat used to behead them and drop their mangled bodies on my eyes at night - I think there are better quality ones that have a solid body. Oh and my dad gave StonkCat this horrible, cheap, fur covered rattle that she became so obsessed with (walking around on her hind legs with it and howling constantly) that I had to throw it out.

I've never encountered a cat that liked those ubiquitous plastic balls with bells inside.
posted by Stonkle at 9:09 PM on June 3, 2016

A tall scratching post to climb is good for kittens. Mine like small soft things they can carry in their mouths as they run. They're too young for catnip at that age. Foil balls and crinkly plastic or mylar are good. Tunnels that make a crinkly noise should also be popular. This looks pretty cool.
posted by irisclara at 9:21 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh yes! Plastic jug rings are great – harmless, almost weightless, and just bouncy enough.

I keep finding them in my bed, though.
posted by zadcat at 9:40 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

ping pong balls are awesome and no harm can come except from the hooman stepping on them and squashing them.
posted by kitten magic at 1:03 AM on June 4, 2016

The tunnel and tissue box have been hits. We've got lots of single-purpose things they can bat; it's puzzles we're after. "Clicker Training for Cats" is on its way to our library.
posted by aniola at 7:14 AM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lay a cereal box on its side. Cut maybe 10 holes in its top and sides, each about 2 inches in diameter. Put a shiny toy inside (ball of foil or similar). Kitty can reach in through all the holes and bat the toy around.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:13 AM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Take cardboard tube from paper towel roll, cut into shallow rings (for advanced users, make them higher and cut at slight angles). Place rings into tray or dish with a lip (like a pie plate or baking tray) and place kibble or high value toys inside one or more of the rings. To get fancier, make vertical slits in taller sections of tube and fold them in so they become cup-like and the kitten has to lift and knock them over to even see the inside.
posted by Mizu at 12:53 PM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

aniola - If you're into videoing the kitty, try recording the first few clicker training sessions! It's a little tricky to set up a camera for this -- try using a tripod instead of a person, since a person can be distracting -- but it will be sooo adorable to watch later. Also instructive for people who want to see how it works with someone who's only just read the book, and a kitty who's never see the clicker before!
posted by amtho at 2:31 PM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

A barette or other small object tied to a string that is tied to a doorknob is a fun batting toy that will not end up under the bed. Put some toys away and get them out a couple days later; novelty is fun.

Leave an open paper grocery bag on the floor, cardboard box(es) to climb in.
posted by theora55 at 8:08 PM on June 4, 2016

I would just like to report that this is a whole lot easier now that they've developed object permanence.
posted by aniola at 9:42 PM on June 9, 2016

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