If you’ve recently added a kitten to your family, you’ve probably discovered two undeniable truths: your new feline friend is the cutest thing ever and they also have boundless energy. While hyperactivity is totally normal in kittens, it can come as a surprise if you’re a first-time cat owner or used to living with an older cat, leaving you wondering: when do kittens calm down?
Whether your kitten thinks your sofa is a scratching post or is experiencing the zoomies at night and running around your living room, there are many ways to channel your kitten’s energy in a positive way.
Read on for what you need to know to better understand your kitten’s temperament and successfully manage their energy levels.
Why Is My Kitten So Hyper?
Stephen Quandt, a feline training and behavior specialist with Feline Behavior Associates in New York City, says most (but not all) kittens have the same energy level as a 4- to 7-year-old child.
“Everything is new to kittens and they exhibit high energy as they learn how to manipulate their world,” he says. “There are two categories of high energy: desirable (which encompasses running, climbing and vocalizing) and undesirable (which involves getting play-aggressive).”
Although it’s normal for kittens to engage in rough and active play, it’s also important to intervene early and to teach your kitten not to bite your hands and other limbs.
“Kittens have natural prey instincts,” Quandt says. “Use toys that put distance between your cat and your hand, such as a feather wand or a plush toy.”
Quandt notes that many shelters and rescue groups recommend adopting kittens in pairs, since they need interactions with other kittens for healthy social development.
“A kitten learns a lot in the first few months of life from their littermates,” he says. “Kittens bite and wrestle with each other and if they are separated from their family before they’re 2 to 3 months old, they may not have learned appropriate play behavior, and think it’s ok to bite and wrestle with you.”
While being energetic as they explore their new surroundings is totally normal kitten behavior, their hyperactivity can catch some cat parents off guard.
“Kittens can act a little crazy, which can be a bit overwhelming for cat parents,” says LeeAnna Buis, a certified feline training and behavior specialist with Feline Behavior Solutions in Vancouver, Washington. “While all cats need daily play and enrichment, kittens need quite a bit more. Just like young children, they’re curious about everything at this age because it’s all new, and they’re learning how to ‘cat.’”
Although Buis says kittens have natural instincts, they aren’t born knowing how to climb, balance, hunt, and play, and they need to learn these behaviors through watching, testing, exploring, and practicing.
Do Kittens Calm Down as They Age?
The good news is your kitten’s energy level will typically decline as they get older.
According to Buis, while all kittens have different levels of energy, their hyperactivity tends to peak around 9 months of age, then they begin to calm down.
Keep in mind that even if your cat’s high energy levels lead to challenging behavior such as jumping on a kitchen counter or clawing your furniture, Quandt says it’s important to never yell at or physically discipline your kitten. “This will only cause them to be stressed and teach them to avoid you,” he says. “It’s much more effective to redirect your cat by enticing them with treats to use a cat tree or to provide them with a scratching post.”
If your kitten is scratching your furniture, Quandt says it’s not because they’re acting out. Scratching is a natural part of your kitten’s development and a way for them to relieve stress, express emotions, mark objects with their scent, and remove the dead part of their nails.
“Bitter apple spray can work if your kitten tries to chew on something like an electric cord, and putting double-sided sticky tape on your sofa can deter them from scratching,” Quandt says.
He notes that climbing is also a normal part of your kitten’s development that satisfies their curiosity to play and explore. In addition, climbing to a higher perch can make kittens feel safe, allow them to survey their surroundings, and offer them their own spot to chill out.
How to Keep Your Kitten Calm
Let’s go over a few tips on how to calm a kitten down.
Provide self-play options for your kitten
The first step in calming your kitten, according to Buis, is to offer them several sources of play and enrichment. “Kittens need to know how to entertain themselves, so make sure they have lots of self-play options,” she says. “Swap toys on a regular basis so your kitten always feels like there’s something new to grab their attention.”
Set aside time for personal playtime with your kitten
Since kittens also need interactive play, Buis recommends playing with your kitten at least a couple of times each day for 15 to 20 minutes.
“Wand toys are one of the best ways to replicate hunting, which is vital for all cats young and old,” she says. “And don’t forget mental enrichment – having your kitten use their brain can be as exhausting as using their body. Giving kittens age-appropriate food puzzles, letting them hunt for treats, even doing some clicker training is fantastic brain work and will help manage their kitten energy.“
Quandt agrees that a bored kitten can often lead to behavior problems. “It’s important to play with your kitten and to also offer them activities that engage their mind,” he says. “Cat puzzle feeders allow your kitten to get treats as rewards for problem solving, while cat tunnels give kittens a personal space where they can play.”
Plan for play to align with cat instincts
Quandt also notes that kittens are motivated by their primal instincts to hunt, kill, eat, and then sleep, so that’s something to keep in mind as well. “Plan a playtime with your cat right before you feed them dinner,” he suggests. “Use a toy that will satisfy their hunting instincts such as a stuffed mouse or a wand. Once they finish ‘hunting’ the toy, you can feed your kitten and they’ll typically fall asleep soon after.”