menu

Table of Contents

Training

Contrary to widespread belief, cats are trainable by proper methods: rewards and tangible but removed punishment (see ‘Spray Bottle Method' below). Declawing is not a solution to cat clawing at furniture - declawing is a mutilation, not a minor operation. Also, a declawed cat cannot escape nor can they defend themselves as well as a cat with claws. Training for cats is more about protecting kittens from themselves - for instance, teach your kitten not to jump on counters since they may jump on a stove and be burned.

Be firm and patient with your kitten. By teaching it the house rules now, you can avoid future behavioral problems. Actions that are cute in a kitten may not seem so cute in an adult (such as nursing on your arm or sitting on the dining room table). If the kitten scratches its claws where it should not, firmly (without yelling) say "NO", take it to its scratching post, and make scratching motions with its feet. Kittens respond well to a firm voice and patience. They are naturally fastidious, and want to behave.

The Water Spray Bottle Method: Behavior problems that do not respond to "No!" can usually be modified by giving the kitten a quick shot of water from a spray bottle. This method removes you from the punishment in the kitten's mind, which is desirable for two reasons: The kitten doesn't begin to fear you as a source of punishment (as it would if you spank!), and it thinks the water is ‘An Act of God,' and will refrain from the undesirable behavior even if you are not around. (A similar method works to keep your kitten from running outdoors: Stand outside, hose in hand, door open, and spray the kitten when it sets foot outside. After a few times, the kitten will decide that there's nothing out there that it wanted anyway!

Collars and Leashes: If you use a collar on your kitten only use a stretch collar and check it weekly to be sure it is not becoming too tight as the kitten grows. A too-loose collar is also dangerous. An elastic collar or breakaway stretch collar is the best choice, as it will separate if it becomes caught on something. Breakaway collars have been known not to breakaway. If you cannot break the collar open using two fingers on your same hand, then it may be too difficult for your cat to break away this type collar. If using a collar, include an ID tag but use the small tag meant for cats and not the larger tag.

If you train your kitten to a leash, use a harness designed for cats - never a collar because a cat will only struggle against the pull of a collar around its neck, but may be more amenable to the behind-the front-legs tug of a harness. Remember that harnesses are not totally secure, and a cat wearing a harness and leash should never be left unsupervised. The cat may slip out of the harness, or strangle himself on the leash. Do not leave a harness on an animal when indoors or unsupervised. Harnesses are not only uncomfortable for wearing in the house but the animal can get the harness snagged on something. Never walk a leashed cat near a roadway or on a busy sidewalk unless you're sure the cat is very calm - cats that can be trusted not to panic in these situations are literally one-in-a-million! The noise and motion of cars, people, other animals, etc. can cause a cat to panic, slip its harness, and dash into danger. The best place for your leashed cat is in your own quiet back yard with you there with her.

Play

Kittens and adult cats like to play. Generally, the morning or early evening (following afternoon naps) is the best time if you want an enthusiastic response, especially in an adult cat. Soft toys with no small, easily removed and swallowed pieces are good toys; a piece of sturdy cloth attached to a thick string tied to a stick is wonderful. With it you can go 'fishing for kittens,' and the pouncing and jumping this toy elicits is great exercise for the kitten. If you use this type of toy, do not leave the kitten unattended with it as the kitten may strangle itself with or on the string. Do not rough play with your kitten, as this can make the kitten too aggressive (if the kitten kicks at your hand or bites at your fingers, say "no," blow in its face, and remove your hand).

Remember that what your kitten needs most is your time and attention. Especially if the kitten is left alone during the day, she will be very glad to see you in the evening and demand quite a bit of attention. Please remember that kittens are sensitive, living creatures, and don't allow your friends, children, or other pets to mishandle the kitten. One sure way to guarantee an unsatisfactory pet is to mistreat her, even inadvertently. On the other hand, plenty of attention, love and considerate play will result in a companion who will give years of joy.