Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kitten Care Basics: Behavior/Training

Locate your kitten's food/water away from the litter box. The sleeping area should also be some distance from the litter box. And yes, it is ok for kitty to sleep with you in your bed. Good luck stopping it!

Do not reward early morning fussing with food or attention. Teach your kitten through habit that feeding time is when YOU get up and get into the kitchen (to be fair this should be the same general time every day). Gently but firmly discourage nighttime pestering. Have a major play session before bedtime to encourage actual sleeping at night.

Teach kitty the meaning of the word: NO. Strategic use af a squirt gun or bottle is alsohelpful in discouraging undesirable behavior such as jumping onto counters and dining tables, and clawing at furniture. Physical discipline such as hitting does not generally work with cats and can backfire badly. Do not use your hands as playthings OR weapons because cats will learn this "game" well and hurt you.

Do not discipline your kitten for litter box use problems. Consult your veterinarian about it before it becomes a persistent habit. Most these problems are easily solved with adjustments in the environment.

Get your cat a scratching post and cardboard scratcher boxes to lay on the floor - cats LOVE these. Use squirt gun and two-sided tape in your quest to prevent furniture damage. We only declaw as a last resort with destructive cats - never without exhausting other options.

Be aware of your own play behavior with your kitten. NEVER use your hands as playthings - let the kitten attack its toys instead to ensure it stays gentle with humans. Make sure everyone in the home knows and obeys this rule - particularly young boys (who have a well-known tendency to play rough). Keep your kitten's claws clipped short so no one gets hurt if play does get rough.

Make sure everyone in the home knows and is on board with house rules for the cat: where it is and is not allowed inside the home, whether or not it is allowed outside, how to play, how to discipline, and who is responsible for feeding (this should be an adult or very reliable teen only) and litter box care (adult only).

Remember that veterinarians are trained in behavior as well as medicine and surgery. Don't hesitate to set up an appointment for an exam and consultation for your behavior problems, and deal with them earlier rather than later.