You have, after a long search, finally found the kitten of your dreams. But when you get him or her home, the reality is something else. He hides behind furniture and attacks your feet as you walk by, “redecorates” your home with his scratching and camps out on your kitchen counters. These are the kittens that need a crash course in manners.
As the pet parent, you are the one who largely determines whether your new kitten turns into the cat of your dreams. Every kitten needs to be taught what is and isn’t acceptable behavior at his new home.
From day one, you should teach your kitten all the adult rules he will have to live by for the rest of his life. If not done when he is young, he may develop a lot of bad habits that are tough to break when he’s older.
5 basic training program areas to address:
1. Use the litterbox
If you’re lucky, your kitten’s mother has done her job and taught him to use a letterbox. Your job, as the kitten’s new caretaker, is to encourage him to use the box you purchased for him. The best way to do this is to confine your kitten to a small area, such as the bathroom or laundry room. Leave him there, along with his litterbox, blanket or bed, and food and water dishes, just long enough for him to get into the habit of using the box. This should take a couple of days at the most.
Your kitten may need some guidance. After a meal, if you see him looking around his room and sniffing as if he’s trying to find the proper place to eliminate, take him over to his letterbox. When he uses it, praise him. Once he knows what the litterbox is for, he’s ready to have free reign of your house. Place the litterbox in an obvious location, or locations, that are easy to get to. Have one on every floor, ideally. It is a lot to ask of a 10 week old kitten to travel from one floor to another when he needs a litterbox. The box should also be low-sided and uncovered, so he can easily get in and out.
If you notice an accident, try to interrupt him by lifting him up and calmly carrying him to his litterbox. Do not discipline him if you find a soiled area on the carpet after the fact. He will not understand why you are upset with him. Be sure to deodorize soiled areas, otherwise they will use the area for the same purpose again.
2. Play appropriately
Your kitten will not have a clue that biting is an unacceptable behavior, because he was allowed to bite and scratch his litter mates. He may nip or attack you in a similar manner while you are playing with him. Or, he might decide to make his own fun by pouncing on your ankles or nipping at your toes while you walk past him. If he does, immediately stop in your track s and intoner him. Don’t make any kind of movement He will learn that when he bites, you stop moving and the game is over. You also make yourself less fun for your cat to attack when you are still. Do this consistently,and your kitten will quickly learn that biting is not an acceptable form of play. DOn’t let him get away with even a gentle nip.
Your kitten needs to scratch. They do so to shed worn claw coverings, to get a good stretch and to mark their territories. If you don’t want them to scratch your furniture and carpets, you must provide him or her with their own special scratching surfaces. At first, it may be difficult to learn your cat’s preferences, so it is good to offer him a variety of scratching posts and pads to try out. Have a horizontal cardboard scratch pad in the house, as well as a couple of different vertical scratching posts with different surfaces such as sisal rope, rough-cut wood, corrugated cardboard, burlap, carpet or cork.
Place your kitten’s scratching surfaces in visible, high-traffic areas in your home where he will use them, rather than in out-of-the-way spots, such as the basement or closet. Cats scratch to mark territory, so the post is more likely to be used if it is out in the open.
If you see kitty scratching something off limits, “interrupt” the behavior by making some kind of noise- not to frighten your kitten, but only to provide a brief distraction. Ring a bell, blow a whistle or shake an empty soda can with coins inside. Turn away from kitty when you’re making the noise so he doesn’t know the sound is coming from you. Immediately take him over to the appropriate scratching surface and gently rub his feet on it so he can get a feel for it. Later, if you notice him using the post on his own, praise him. Once he gets the idea, the thought is that he will forget about using your furniture instead.
If he doesn’t get the hang of it, temporarily cover up or remove the things he likes to scratch from his environment, if possible. Tuck up your long satin drapes, put the wicker chair in storage, or place a plastic sheet on the arms of your sofa. If there is nothing else fun to scratch, he will go to the post.
4. Avoid annoying behaviors
Sometimes kittens develop annoying habits like waking their pet parents early in the morning, becoming boisterous at night and meowing excessively. They might start doing these behaviors when their needs aren’t being met. IF they sleep all day, they might play late at night or wake their humans up early in the morning. Health problems can also cause hyperactivity at night, or excessive meowing.
If you have met your kitten’s needs – thus, enough opportunities are there for interactive and independent play, is on a good feeding schedule, and his health has been checked out, then the issue is probably behavioral. Then, ignore your kitten when he misbehaves. For example, don’t reward him for being demanding of food or attention, with food or more attention. It will just reinforce the negative behavior.
Once a kitten has been rewarded for meowing, for example, it is hard to stop. If you later try to start the ignoring technique, he will likely just try harder by increasing the intensity of the behavior (int his case meowing).
5. Know the boundaries
In most households, kitchen counters and tabletops, shelves and curio cabinets are off-limits to cats Your kitten will have to be taught these boundaries. This is fairly easy to do. If you catch the kitten on the counter, just remove him with-out talking, petting or looking at him, because one reason cats like counter cruising is it gets your attention. True, some like to jump from one piece of furniture to another, for exercise. Yet, best to offer other forms of, and locations for exercise.
There are scat mats that can be bought to dissuade jumping, and there are other ways to set up booby traps for when you are not around to catch the behavior and act upon it. This could mean putting shelf paper (sticky side up), double-sided tape or a strip of plastic carpet runner (nubby side up) on the counter top. When your cat jumps up, he will decide that he does not like that sensation, and refrain from jumping in the future.
Be sure to provide your kitten with a sturdy, multi-level cat tree, so he has a place where it is ok for him to jump up and climb. When your kitten leaps up and climbs on things, he’s not being mischievous. He’s just leaning about his emerging physical skills. It is best to offer him safe options.
The key to a successful training program is to show your kitten what he can do, rather than just what he can’t do. The more positive things you do for and with your kitten, the better the bond you create between the two of you. Your kitten will become well-adjusted to hour home, and you will have a very happy and well-mannered cat.