Puppies that play too roughly leave a trail of superficial wounds behind them. Kittens, on the other hand, are a completely different animal. While it is rare for a normal puppy to leave puncture wounds or lunge into your face, these are both routine maneuvers for kittens the world over. Their wide-eyed, innocent appearance belies a devilish ability to torment humans past the endpoint of sanity. The exuberant behavior of puppies can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but overly playful kittens can unleash total chaos.

Question: I wake up two or three times a week in the wee hours of the morning convinced that I am having a heart attack, because my kitten has leaped from some unknown point of origin and landed like a ton of bricks on my chest. What can I do to stop him?

Answer: With the proper reinforcement and a moderate amount of patience, young dogs soon learn that nighttime is for sleeping, while cats are uniquely resistant to this lesson. The only hope you have is to keep your little demon busy during the daytime, when he wants to be napping in the sun and gathering his energy for nighttime hijinx. If he worked all day like you do, he’d be more tired at night. Like you are.

Question: The kitten attacks my feet viciously as I make my way around the house. I’m at the end of my rope, fearful of turning every corner since he sets up his ambush in a different place every night. Do I need to get rid of this beast?

Answer: These behaviors tend to ease as the kitten ages, but you can help him move past them by luring his attention elsewhere. A flexible pole with feathers or ribbons on the end is sold at nearly every pet store. The flashy prize on the end of the toy will be more attractive than your ankles, and chasing you will no longer yield the maximum amount of joy. Downside: you must have the toy in hand when you’re likely to be attacked.

Some kittens act as if they are insane and climb your curtains, chase madly around the house as if possessed, and jump at your face when you speak. This is still relatively normal behavior, but your tolerance for it may have limits. Almost any pet behavior dilemma will benefit from additional exercise, so play harder. Look for more attractive toys. Every cat has his own idea of the perfect plaything; perhaps you just haven’t found it. As a last resort, super crazy kittens may benefit from a friend of the same species and age, who can deliver your cat a hefty dose of his own medicine like no human companion could. Consider this option carefully, though; know that 2 kittens may wreak twice the havoc in your home, that 2 kittens are twice as expensive, and that each one comes with a 14-20 year commitment. If you can survive the opening months, though, this might be the best strategy for balancing out your family.

Dr. M.S. Regan