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Playing Problems

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Just under a month ago I rescued a beautiful silver tabby/Maine coon mix from a local rescue agency, it was instant love on both our parts. We were first told that Opie (If religion is the opiate of the masses, cats are mine) was a three year old boy--and a big boy was he!--but just before we finished the adoption, the paperwork showed that Opie was only a year old. In fact, I adopted him on his birthday! Our first week together was incredible, I woke up the first morning with him to find him laying in bed with me, on his back, his head on my shoulder, sound asleep and purring up a small storm. I couldn't ask for a better kitty!

However, now that the stress of a new home is wearing off, his energy is staring to return, and he's certainly acting like a one year old! The problem is... it almost seems like he doesn't know how to play to wear that energy down.

I first noticed it toward the end of our second week together. If I was on one end of the hall and he on the other, he'd start to arch his back at me, then charge at me, slapping a (clawless) paw at my leg. I thought it was cute, he was wanting to play like I was just another cat! I quickly pulled out every cat toy I had collected over the years, feathers on sticks, strings hanging from suction cups on the windows, toy mice, bells on strings, you name it, he has it.

But he doesn't see to 'get' any of it. He's quite interested in the bells on strings and feathers on sticks, but he won't run after them or leap in the air like all my previous kitties would. Every now and again he'll pounce his big butt up from the ground onto the sofa to try and pin it, but generally he'll just hunker down and swat at it, or stair at it wide-eyed from the other side of the room.

That's all fine and dandy, until he's trying to pounce on and play with me in the middle of the night. If I do put on a glove and long sleeved shirt and try and 'wrestle' with him like he seems to want, he panics and runs away after only a few seconds of play. After a while of this I figured maybe he wanted to play 'chase away' but no, he seems to hide under a chair/table and stay put... once again not responding to my trying to wrestle or taunt him with toys.

Long story short: I'm lost. I desperately want him to be a happy, well-adjusted and healthy cat, but I can't seem to find any way to really help him play and burn out his energy. From what little I know of his former owners, he was really expected to stay 'out of sight and out of mind' until *they* wanted to see him, so I'm pretty convinced that is the reason for his odd behavior here.

I need a cat whisperer who can give me some advice on how to help my baby learn how to play! Thanks for any and all tips. <3
post #2 of 11
Welcome to TCS!

Hmmm....seems like Opie isn't used to things, like playing. The arching back/swatting at you....does it seem defensive? From how you describe it, I think he's scared.

Would it be possible for you to adopt another kitty(do you have $$, space, etc for another)? I seem to suggest that a lot, but I really do think it would help if Opie had another kitty to learn from.

ETA: Perhaps try Feliway?
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thank you muchly for the welcome.

Originally Posted by white cat lover View Post
Hmmm....seems like Opie isn't used to things, like playing. The arching back/swatting at you....does it seem defensive? From how you describe it, I think he's scared.

ETA: Perhaps try Feliway?
It doesn't seem to be like he's afraid, but I could be wrong. It more seems like he treats me like another cat. My parent's cats do this to each other a lot, they put their ears back and arch their backs then pounce on each other. But that's just my assumption. =P

If he is afraid, it's only at certain times, as like I said, he sleeps belly-up beside me in bed and will lay across my knees and let his head and front paws hang off to the ground while I pet him. It's part of why I'm confused, as at times he'll dive under the covers to attack my feet in the same way that he'll charge at me in the hall and swat at my legs.

I wish I could afford another cat, but right now one is all I can afford, sadly. I just moved to a new apartment and had been saving for a couple months to be able to adopt a kitty.
post #4 of 11
It's OK if you can't afford another kitty, it's best that you only have one rather than not properly care for two.

Do you know....was he a bottle fed kitten? Sometimes, bottle fed kittens & kittens taking from mom/littermates too young never learn their "boundaries". Like Jade, my foster bottle baby from earlier this year. She would bite, a lot, all the time, was just naughty. But, she never had other kitties to learn "good" behaviors from.
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
I'm not sure if he was bottle raised, but I know he was with his litter until he was at least old enough to eat solid foods. He and his entire litter were adopted out, he was returned because his previous owners adopted him for their daughter... who left for college and didn't take him, so they just dropped him back at the shelter.

He's had a rough time of his one year... I get the feeling he was pretty much ignored there... and I recently found out he was in the emergency room 7 weeks ago because he'd been under a lazy boy, the foot rest had been lowered and he'd gotten a spring embedded in his neck. I feel very bad for him and just want to make his life better. Other than that bit of odd behavior... he really is the sweetest cat ever.
post #6 of 11
If it helps any, it hasn't even been a month. I always remind adoptees that it takes 6 months or more for an animal to fully adjust to their new surroundings. He went from being unloved in a home, to the shelter(a cage?), to your house....where he is not only loved, but can run all over the place.

I suggest you try some behavior modifications....perhaps try a "tsk" that sounds similar to a hiss when he swats at you. Or yell "ow" like a cat yowl when he swats you? Just iron out the behaviors now before they get any worse....that's all I have for suggestions right now....hopefully other TCS'ers will have more suggestions!
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thank you, reminding me that it has only been a month is probably one of the best things you could have done for me. It feels like we've known each other for ages, I do forget sometimes that we're still figuring each other out. =P
post #8 of 11
Sounds like my Radar - who does know how to play with toys (he especially likes to play fetch) but whos boundless energy will never be satisfied in the few hours a day I have available to play with him!

I am very familiar with the racing up, batting, and racing away (I have found that Radar appreciates being 'chased' when he does this - obviously in a non-threatening way - I follow him to wherever he's hiding and look for him and then he will jump out, bat me again and run the other way, I follow again etc. etc.), the silent ambush which results in a gleeful cat wrapped around my leg, and the endless endless foot hunting whether I'm sitting on the sofa or trying to sleep, the sudden descent of Radar upon my legs means that digging at my feet with claws and teeth will follow!

I suggest 2 things. Firstly try a laser pointer if you haven't already - few cats can resist chasing the red dot! It's a good simulation of hunting prey like a moth and as far as the cat is concerned isn't caused by you. Secondly what worked (mostly!) for me was another kitten - they play the same games but with each other, chasing all over the place, ambushing one another from hiding places, and generally leaping around having fun.

Having 2 is more than twice the entertainment, and it's a lot easier on my feet!
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
My mother suggested a laser pointer and I thought it was a brilliant idea! ...sadly Opie just looked at it, then at me, then sniffed the device, then walked away. He doesn't seem to 'get' it.

I wish I could afford another kitty, but right now Opie's all I can take care of.
post #10 of 11
Does he like treats? There are cat toys that dispense treats, if played with enough...

The toys he will at least bat at--play with those, and keep doing it. Give him treats after playtime to form positive associations. His repertoire should expand gradually, as he gets used to it.
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
He's eager for treats at 'treat time,' (only beef flavored ones, any others he'll turn his nose up at. XD Picky kitty) but I've tried hiding treats in his kitty tree/around the house to encourage him to explore... but weeks later they still remain, even if I point them out to him. I'll take a look at some of those treat-dispensing toys, though!
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