Thursday 21 December 2023

The reason why kittens, adult domestic cats and small wild cats play

Playing for both the domestic adult cat and kitten and in general small wild cat cubs is about self-training and practising for improved predation for survival and to defend their home range.

Play is for honing motor skills in practice for predation
Play is for honing motor skills in practice for predation. Image: MikeB

I would argue that for the small wild cat species, as stated, it is normally only for cubs/kittens to play and who do it intensively in order to train themselves in terms of coordination and general motor skills to become better predators (and survivors) when they are adults. And it is fun.

For the domestic cat it is a little different as they are cared for by their human caregiver. The human caregiver is a surrogate mother and this tends to keep the adult cat in the mental state of being a kitten and therefore they tend to have a kitten attitude or personality which translates to kitten-like behaviour which in turn translates to playing as an important aspect of their lives even when adult. 

Domestic cats and kittens play a lot because it's instinctive but it doesn't stop when they become adults. That's the point I'm making.

Experts have observed small wild cat species playing with prey animals such as mice in the same way as domestic cats. Some people think that the domestic cat is torturing a mouse when they do this. And they criticise the domestic cat for it. It's not true. It's normally because they might be a little frightened of being bitten because they lack practice in predation or they are instinctively practising predation and killing as was observed in a Geoffroy's cat in a captive environment.

The point is that the underlying reason why the small cats which includes domestic and wild cats play is, in the words of Jim Sanderson PhD, "to develop their motor skills". That's the purpose behind it rather than simple entertainment.

P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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