Kittens are full of energy, which is adorable, but there are times you wish they would just calm down. Once they get a bit bigger, they can get going pretty fast and you may find them running through the house, knocking things over, or hanging from the curtains or screen windows.
It’s important to realize that energy and kittens go hand and hand.
When you sign up to adopt a kitten, you’re signing up to deal with, what seems like, endless energy.
There are steps you can take, which I share in this article, to help them calm down. However, you also need to let your kitten be a kitten. They have loads of energy and need a way to get it out.
At what age do kittens calm down?
Kittens calm down between the age of 6 – 9 months. With each month, you’ll notice their sleep periods last longer. They’ll also stay awake longer, but because the time they’re awake isn’t broken up by as many naps, they won’t spend every waking hour going crazy.
If your kittens are currently climbing legs and curtains, jumping on every surface, and keeping you on your toes, I can say from experience, that behavior starts to decline around the six-month mark.
By six months, kittens have a better understanding of how things work and have fewer things to check out. By nine months, I find they have a clear understanding of what they are and aren’t allowed to do. That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to get up on the counter, but they understand what you mean when you tell them to get down.
Around the six month mark, their “bad behavior” (e.g. jumping up on the counter) is more deliberate rather than innocent exploring. Meaning that they know it’s wrong to jump up on the counter but they want your attention, or are hungry, or want to look out the kitchen window, and that’s why they’re doing it.
The age at which kittens calm down can vary because each cat is different and will have varying levels of energy.
Our two kittens, Charlie and Arthur, are close to 9 months old (at the time of writing this article). They were just over 3 months old when we received them and had loads of energy. If they weren’t sleeping, they were running around and playing.
Although they’re brothers from the same litter, their energy levels are much different.
Arthur calmed down significantly around the 5 or 6 month mark. He’s always slept a bit more than his brother but prior to the six month mark would tend to wake up and play when Charlie was playing.
Now, Arthur plays for a few hours in the morning, and then it’s nap time for most of the day, even if his brother is up and playing.
Charlie seems to have endless energy. There isn’t a time he doesn’t want to play. Even when he’s in a deep sleep, he’ll jump up if he hears us doing something in another room.
However, he’s calmed down significantly in the past couple of weeks. He likes to play and be busy most of the morning, but he’ll sleep most of the afternoon now. Then he likes a good play session in the evening.
I definitely notice that when I have time to give both kittens a dedicated play session in the morning, and really get them moving and running around, they both start their nap time much sooner, sleep deeper, and longer.
Why is my kitten so hyper?
Kittens are hyper because of their predatory nature. They’re born to hunt, so their instincts are kicking in and they want to explore, run, bite, play, etc. They also grow fast and are learning new skills. Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? It’s probably all you wanted to do for the first several months.
Kittens are learning to run, jump, jump higher, climb, etc., and are excited to test their new boundaries. They also sleep a lot, so when they’re awake, they have loads of energy to burn.
If your kitten is uncharacteristically hyper all of a sudden, consider what they’ve ingested recently. Things that could be making your kitten hyper are:
- Change in food
- Getting into a bag of catnip
- Medication your vet has prescribed
- Medication the vet gave them during a visit
- House plants they may have ingested
It may even be that your kitten isn’t feeling well. Cats tend to hide their injuries and illnesses, so odd behavior can be a sign that something’s wrong.
When our kitten was dealing with blood in his urine, he was excessively hyper and aggressive towards his brother.
After a couple of trips to the vets and no sign of improvement, I finally wondered if it could be a plant that was causing his health issue. Sure enough, there were bite marks on some leaves. I moved all of my plants into one room and shut the door so my kitten didn’t have access to them. He started to improve and was better within a few days.
Keep an eye on your kitten’s food and water intake, as well as their litter box usage. A change in their energy levels, eating habits, and litter box behavior can be indications you need to take them to see a veterinarian. If something seems off, give your vet clinic a call.
Do kittens get calmer with age?
Kittens get calmer as they age, and are typically the most active between 3 – 9 months. As they move into adulthood (the 12-month mark), they’ll calm down even more.
Each cat is different and if you have a very active kitten, they’re likely to calm down as an adult, but still remain active.
Your behavior and the environment you create for your kitten will greatly shape the type of cat they are.
You’ll find tips in the “how to raise a calm kitten” section below to help your kitten become more relaxed.
How to calm a kitten down
If you’ve got a hyper kitten on your hands and need them to calm down quickly so you can go to sleep or get through a Zoom call, try these three techniques.
#1 Tire them out
The quickest way to calm a kitten down is to help them get their energy out. You can’t force them to calm down. When they have a lot of energy after a nap, running around and playing is the only way they know to get it out.
Get some toys out and encourage them to run around. Instead of letting them play at their own pace, perhaps taking lots of breaks between play, keep them constantly going until they run out of energy.
Keep moving their toy so they move.
The younger your kitten is, the faster they’ll tire out. As they get older, they build more stamina.
A kitten won’t tire out as fast when they’re lying down and pawing at a toy. Get them running from one side of a room to the other.
Tiring out your kitten and getting them to calm down will require some effort from you.
Get a toy they like to chase and either toss it from one side of the room to the other, over and over again, or walk a toy (like a wand), from one side of the room to the other.
Do this over and over again until your kitten starts to slow down and they no longer get up to chase the toy.
The natural rhythm of a cat is to hunt, chase, then eat (their prey). They’re typically ready for a nap after that.
So once they’re done chasing, give them a small meal.
#2 Soothe them
Try to soothe your kitten in the same way you would soothe a baby with a lullaby, a “shhhhh, shhhhh, shhhh”, or a gentle rocking. They’re not going to go from running through the house like a wild kitty to sleeping, but it can help signify to them it’s time to calm down.
#3 Use mirroring
The idea behind mirroring is that cats want to do what their owners are doing. So if your cat always walks across your laptop when you’re trying to work, getting them a toy laptop they can sit in front of (or something that looks like a laptop, such as an open book), to mimic or mirror you, can keep them from pestering you.
Try this technique when you want to calm your kitten down. Exhibit the behavior you want them to mimic.
Lie on the ground and get quiet. Close your eyes and take deep breaths.
I’ve seen this technique work so many times, with several different cats, when I practice yoga.
I can simply be doing stretches on my mat and taking deep breathes. Without fail, if a cat is awake in the room, they come and sit next to me and eventually lie down.
Those are short-term solutions to getting your kitten to calm down. But there are techniques you can put in place to help create a more zen-like kitten when you need it most.
Please consider, they are kittens, and they do have lots of energy. So be patient with them.
How to raise a calm kitten
If you’re wondering when your kitten is going to calm down, it’s likely you’re dealing with some destructive or unwanted behavior.
They may be running around the house, constantly jumping on the counter, getting into things they shouldn’t, climbing curtains, etc.
They’re in the explore phase and want to experience everything (like what the view is from the top of the curtains).
Part of that is just part of the territory that comes with having a kitten. They want to climb anything and everything and see how fast their little legs can move them.
Cats do have set personalities, but you can help shape them.
If you yell at them and chase them around the house every time they do something bad, they’re not going to shape them into a calm cat.
We currently have two 9-month old kittens. One (Charlie) is much more active than the other (Arthur).
Around the 6 month mark, I was getting worried Charlie was going to be a wild kitty forever.
However, I can say the following tips have made a huge difference in Charlie’s behavior. He’s still the more active cat, but he doesn’t act out as much and has even become more of a cuddle bug than our less-active Arthur.
1 – Switch foods
A kitten’s natural diet would be small insects, rodents, or birds their mom catches. In other words: high-protein snacks throughout the day.
If you’re feeding your kitten a low-quality food full of fillers like grains and vegetables, they may not be getting the protein they need.
Just as a carb-heavy meal can cause blood sugar spikes in humans, the same will happen to your kitten if they’re eating food high in carbohydrates.
It’s important to feed your kitten a high-quality wet food, preferably grain-free.
Wet food is always preferred, even after your kitten transitions from kitten food to cat food.
My suggestion is to go to your local pet store and get a variety of canned kitten food.
We went through several different types of food before we discovered one both kittens would consistently eat.
They turned their noses up at most food we served them. So don’t buy too many at once in case your kitten refuses to eat it.
2 – Give small meals
If your kitten gets crazy during the night, or anytime, consider that it may be because they’re hungry.
Our senior cat knew how to communicate that they were hungry; by meowing at our bedroom door in the morning, or in the kitchen during the day.
I don’t think kittens necessarily associate the feeling of hunger with food. I believe they start to feel different and so they act different, rather than just heading to their dish for a snack.
Our kittens still don’t seem to know they’re hungry until we put them in front of their food dish.
We’ve come to realize that when we’re saying “What is up with them?!”, they’re usually hungry.
Their rambunctious behavior seems like a weird way to show they’re hungry, but they probably don’t know the “right” way to tell us they’re hungry.
If cats were required to catch their meals, they would eat small meals throughout the day. Hunting and chasing is followed by a meal.
Keep that in mind when creating their routine. After playtime is a natural time for a meal to fit in.
If your kitten is waking you up in the middle of the night by being rambunctious, make sure you’re feeding them just before you go to bed, and make sure they have enough food to have a snack during the night.
This can be harder with wet food because it dries out after a few hours and your kitten will no longer be interested in it.
When our kittens got a bit older, we introduced them to dry food; but only at night and in small amounts. Their diet is 95% wet food.
We still keep their dry food grain-free. This is the one we, and our kittens, love:
We purchased an automatic food dispenser and set it to dispense about 1/2 cup of dry food in the middle of the night.
I honestly don’t know how we lived without one before. It’s perfect for when you’re going to be out of the house longer than a few hours. You can even get ones that you can control with your phone. So if you’re out longer than expected, you can feed your cat using an APP on your phone.
3 – Create a routine
Cats are creatures of habit and they appreciate routine. A consistent routine teaches them what to expect and creates a pattern for them to follow.
For example, if you feed your cat the second you come out of your bedroom, they’ll come to expect food the moment you wake up and may start trying to wake you up for food.
On the other hand, if you create a routine and don’t feed them until after your breakfast, they’ll learn that food comes after you get up from the kitchen table.
You can use a routine the help your kitten understand which times during the day are quiet times and when are play times.
Follow a cat’s natural rhythm. In the wild, a cat’s pattern would be to hunt, catch their prey, play with their prey, eat their prey, then rest.
Create a similar pattern with their routines.
If you want them to calm down when you go to bed, plan playtime followed by mealtime, right before you shut the lights off.
The parts of their routine should be obvious. Meaning, make playtime really playtime by devoting all of your attention and encouraging them to go bonkers if they want to.
Get excited, throw toys for them, chase them around the house (in a non-threatening way of course), give them lots of attention and praise as they play, etc.
And when it’s time to wind down, try and make it very peaceful. Talk in a soft voice and soothing tone and create a calm environment.
4 – Praise your kitten
Cats learn by positive reinforcement. So if you want them to be calm, let them know they’re doing a good job when they’re sitting still or lying on the couch.
Teach your kitten your “good” voice and “bad” voice. This has worked incredibly well with our kittens.
We actually have two types of “good” voices.
>> One is a higher-pitched voice with an excited tone for when they’re playing and looking for acknowledgment.
>> The other is calm and loving when they’re having a sunbath, sitting nice, being affectionate etc. We want them to receive positive reinforcement without getting them excited.
The “bad” voice is deeper and more stern. “Nooooo” is what they hear when they start to get a little too crazy.
Use your excited voice when they’re playing and you want them to use up their energy. Talking to them when they’re getting crazy and showing your excitement will encourage them to keep going, go harder, and burn more energy. Be their cheerleader.
Use your softer, soothing voice to tell your kittens “good job”, “nice boy/girl”, etc. when they’re being calm. They may be sitting looking out the window, having a bath, or just relaxing. Show them you appreciate their behavior.
Use your “bad” voice if they’re starting to ramp up at a time you want them to be calm, like during a Zoom call. The second they switch behaviors, praise them again.
Remember, your attention is a reward to them.
Help them understand what type of behavior warrants a reward.
If you haven’t given your kitten enough attention during the day, they will start to act out.
When a cat wants attention, they’ll take it any way they can get it. If that means jumping on the counter so you get up to scold them or chase them around the house, they keep jumping on the counter until you fulfill their craving for attention.
Keep that in mind; punishing your cat does NOT produce good behavior.
Scolding or ignoring them in an attempt to get them to calm down and behave will only encourage them to act up more.
The better and (much) more effective method is to stop what you’re doing and give them what they want. Which is usually:
- Food and/or water
- Affection and attention
- A clean litter box
5 – Create a calm environment
Think about when you walk into a spa. The lights are low, soft music is playing, it’s quiet, and people are speaking softly. You instantly feel relaxed. And the longer you stay in that calm environment, the longer the relaxed feeling stays with you.
On the other hand, if you go to a rock concert, you may get excited and feel lots of energy during the show. Your energy levels don’t drop the second you leave the venue. You’re usually buzzing for an hour or two after the show.
Your kitten’s behavior will reflect the environment you’ve created for them.
If the lights are bright, the TV is blaring, and kids are running around, your kitten is going to feed off that energy.
And that high energy can linger even after you’ve shut everything off and gone to bed.
They may not speak our language but they do pick up on our stress, tension, moods, when two people are fighting, etc.
Try creating a more relaxed environment for your kitten by turning down music and/or the TV, lowering the volume of your voice, moving slower, etc.
If you want a calm cat, create a calm environment.
6 – Play more
Kittens need lots of playtime. I honestly didn’t realize just how much they can, and will, play until we adopted two brother kittens. It was the first time I’d had two kittens at the same time.
We first brought them home at about three months old and if they weren’t sleeping, they were playing. Even when one was using the litter box, the other would jump in there and try to play.
Adopting a kitten comes with responsibilities and plenty of playtime is almost as important as giving them food, water, and a litter box.
You should be playing with your kitten every chance you get throughout the day. Let them tell you when they’re ready to stop.
They’ll walk away from a toy or flop down once they’ve tuckered themselves out and had enough.
It’s also important to remember that kittens have shorter sleep cycles. Which means, no matter how much you play with them before bed, they likely won’t sleep for eight hours like you do.
Kittens tend to play hard for an hour and then sleep for a few.
With that in mind, find some toys that will keep them busy during times you can’t. Motion-activated toys can feed your kitten’s craving to play so they don’t start climbing the curtains.
Our kittens love their floppy fish.
But any toy that creates lots of movement when they paw at it will help keep your kitten occupied. There are plenty of toys to check out here, but these are some our kittens and cats have loved.
These springs look unassuming, but our kittens LOVE them. They roll quickly and bounce around when they try to grab them.
7 – Let them sleep
It’s one thing if your kitten hops up and starts playing when they hear their favourite toy moving around. But it’s another to wake a kitten from their slumber because you want them to sleep later, not now.
Kittens are just like babies, they need their sleep. So be respectful of their rest time and let them be kittens.
And make sure they have someplace quiet and comfortable to sleep.
They may want to calm down and have a nap but just can’t resist themselves when they hear kids playing next to them.
How do I teach a kitten to calm down?
You can teach a kitten to calm down through a consistent routine and positive reinforcement. Cats don’t learn through punishment. They may stop a behavior momentarily when you shout at them to get off the counter, or when you spray them with a water bottle, but it’s not solving the issue.
You’ll likely notice that the frequency of the “bad” behavior remains the same.
But when you reward the good behavior you want them to exhibit more of (e.g. being calm at bedtime), they’ll want to spend more time doing that.
Their focus shifts away from the “bad” behavior that gets your attention and towards that “good” behavior.
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