Tips to help you through the toddler and teenage years.
Kitten season is almost here! Before you take the plunge, look beyond the undeniable “cute” factor and make sure you are prepared to spend time training your new feline.
Training is the key to a happy and enjoyable relationship with your cat. The time you spend today will help you avoid undesirable behaviors in the future. Behavior issues are one of the leading reasons that cats end up in shelters seeking a new home.
Not surprisingly, felines are more comfortable learning by the same method that works best for dogs…positive reinforcement. They learn by experience…if the experience is pleasurable, they’ll want to repeat it. If the experience is unpleasant, they will avoid future encounters.
Cats are also affected by our unintentional rewards of their obnoxious behavior. If your cat wakes you at five in the morning and you get up…feed him, play with him…Oscar has just learned that wake up calls are A-OK by you. You can be sure he’ll repeat them. Similarly, by “punishing” your cat or kitten for a bad behavior, you may set him up for repeated failures. If you come home and find that he has eliminated outside of the litter box and then grab him, show him the spot, drag him to the litter box and force him to dig in the litter you have shown Oscar that using the litter box isn’t any fun at all. The long term result could be litter box avoidance issues.
What’s a feline lover to do? Consider the tips below for basic training. They will get you started down the road to success.
- Stop all reprimands and punishment.
- Set your kitten up for success
- Set up your kitten’s environment so that the undesirable behaviors are not rewarding.
The Litter Box
- Make sure Oscar’s litter box is CLEAN…from his perspective, not yours. This means it must be cleaned/scooped daily.
- Don’t give Oscar free run of the house UNTIL he is trained to the litter box. Cats don’t like their areas to be dirty so with fewer areas to roam, the greater the likelihood that he will not have accidents.
- Consider other factors that might be causing Oscar to avoid the litter box. Any kind of stress can cause a hiccup…even something like a new cat in the neighborhood. This may seem like something small to you…but to Oscar, it’s somebody new in his territory. Medical issues, declawing and multiple cats in the home are even larger factors in causing litter box avoidance.
Scratching and Climbing
- Realize that all cats need to scratch and climb. It is part of their natural behavior pattern and necessary to their emotional and physical well-being.
- Understand that declawing is never an option. This is really amputation of their toes and will certainly cause you more problems down the road.
- Keep Oscar’s nails appropriately clipped.
- Combine both activities in one great piece of kitty furniture. An awesome cat scratching post/condo/playscape!
- While training, confine Oscar to an area where he cannot get into trouble.
- While training, make your stuff undesirable. Put sheets of tin foil on the counters, temporarily protect furniture parts with a covering of netting or loosely woven fabric. Cats hate the sound and feel of tin foil and they hate the feeling of getting their claws snagged in fabric.
- Lavish praise on Oscar for using his “furniture”.
- If he is not interested, it is up to you to show him how much fun he can have. Attach toys so they dangle down enticingly. Put some of his favorite treats on top. Rub the post with catnip. Call him to the post and then reward him with his favorite treat when he arrives. Make it fun and he’s likely to learn VERY quickly.
Rambunctious Kitten Behavior
- Realize that kittens and young adult cats that “attack” you, bounce off the walls, knock things off countertops, steal and hide unusual things and cause general mayhem are completely normal. They are acting out play and predatory behavior. If they engage in this behavior during the middle of the night…this is also normal as cats are generally nocturnal with their activity level peaking late at night.
- Realize that this behavior can be even more problematic if your feline is lonely and bored.
- It is up to you to create an environment where Oscar can constructively experience these behaviors.
- Actively play with Oscar. A tossed ball to play with in solitude won’t do the trick.
- Give Oscar a window perch and hang a bird feeder outside. He’ll be enthralled for hours watching the outside activity.
- Nocturnal activities a problem? Make sure to play with Oscar during the day and especially in the evening. Make sure noisy toys are out of reach during the night…he can still play with the other toys without waking you up.
- Caterwauling and frenzied behavior driving you nuts? These behaviors could be taking place because Oscar is not neutered. Spaying and neutering your cat will curb these problems.
For more advice, consider consulting a cat behaviorist and trainer. These skilled individuals specialize in helping people develop lasting and loving relationships with their feline family members. It is always a great idea to consult a professional before taking on any training program so that you have as much information as possible at your disposal.>