Raising & Training Kittens
Most people know that dogs can be trained, but not everyone knows that cats
are also able to learn various tricks and behaviours. They are intelligent,
independent animals and with the right training they can follow instructions
(plus, they don’t really need that much approval). Here are a few techniques and
tips that can be helpful when training your new kitten. Let’s get started.
OBEDIENCE TRAINING FOR KITTENS
Remember, your kitten is young, curious and maybe even a little bit anxious
after being separated from his mother and litter. So, the first thing you can do
when teaching obedience is to keep training sessions short. Also, don’t try to
introduce too many commands in the beginning. Choose one command and
make sure your kitten masters it. Then only go on to the next one.
Now you want to make sure the command is not only associated with one
context or area. You want your kitten to respond to you in various situations and
places so practice in the kitchen, lounge, bedroom and everywhere else your
kitten is allowed. Some owners use a clicker as a training aid to get the proper
response for routines such as grooming (stand still) or occasions such as
travelling (stay calm).
Early training is really important if you want your kitten to understand the
boundaries and learn her place in her new home as soon as possible. Bad habits
can creep in easily and are so difficult (sometimes impossible) to unlearn.
Exploring the trash, strutting on counters or tearing up expensive furniture are
all concerning and often maddening behaviours.
However, with the right training approach, kitten obedience is achievable and
will benefit everyone. Your kitten’s body and mind will be stimulated; social skills
will improve; your home will be in a better state; and your bond will grow
To make training easier, be sure to stock up on loads of toys. Toys keep kittens
occupied, not only physically, but mentally as well. Bonus tip: sprinkle some toys
with catnip. When you notice your kitten doing something naughty, use a toy as
distraction. The toy then functions as a reward from stopping the bad behaviour.
CAT BEHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS THAT ARE COMMON
With hands-on obedience training, you can address common problems quickly
and hopefully prevent larger issues in the future. If you’re a cat owner you’ll be
familiar with some, if not all, of these.
• Furniture scratching
• Avoiding the litter box
• Spraying and urinating
• Stress and fear or anxiety
• Aggression towards people or other animals
• Compulsive behaviors e.g. over-grooming, excessively scratching or biting
THE HOW-TO OF CAT TRAINING
A few lucky cat owners have eager learners. The rest might be stuck with cute
furballs skilled at sweetly ignoring them. Cats have unique personalities, so the
only thing you should rely on is your patience and persistence. Also don’t
compare your kitten to (your) other cats. Plus, remember to keep daily sessions
short, but frequent. It helps if you set aside specific times every day to practice
(for example, before feeding and playtime).
Remember: cats don’t respond well to punishment. Usually they’ll hide or run
away from you. This can lead to stress and possibly behavioural or health
problems in the long run. A system that relies on reward to encourage good
behaviour, for example praise or a treat, is likely to get better results. Keep
teaching your kitten that good behaviour equals reward.
ADDRESSING BAD BEHAVIOUR
Changes in a cat’s environment, medical conditions or other interferences could
all lead to stress and cause a cat to act out. It could also be that your cat simply
doesn’t know what’s wrong and right. Because the reason is usually unclear, it’s
better to redirect unwanted behaviour (in the right way) rather than punish her,
which won’t be effective anyway. The last thing you want is for your cat to feel
threatened by you, fueling the circle of stress and weakening the bond you
One good way to deal with issues is creating an association between something
unpleasant and bad behaviours. Some scents and smells, for example perfume
and citrus, put cats off. Try placing cotton balls, soaked in a scent your cat
dislikes, around spots that are off limits. Good behaviour should not go without
praise and reward. Just because your cat won’t necessarily respond to approval
doesn’t mean it’s not appreciated.