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Does your kitten rummage through the trash or regularly steal food off the kitchen counter when you are not looking? Do you come home to scratches on your couch or catch them in the middle of taking a bathroom break on your favourite rug? As pet parents, it is natural for you to get upset about this. But before you get angry, take a deep breath, step back and ask yourself: Does my kitten even understand that what he/she is doing is not appropriate? And what can I do to make the situation easier for both of us?
As you have probably noticed, kittens are curious about everything happening around them and love to explore their environment. They use what is available to them—claws, paws, etc.—to understand the objects in their home. So, when they are rummaging in your living room, perhaps clawing your sofa or a houseplant, your kitten is just getting to know his or her environment. Since you do want to keep your belongings intact, here are a few easy solutions that you can incorporate into your daily life without curbing your kitty’s curious nature:
Any relationship needs time to grow, whether it is with humans or our four-legged friends. But how does one do that? This is where kitten behavioural training comes in. You might think that tricks and basic training are typically connected to dogs, but cats can learn them too! That's right—kitten behavioural training is possible and essential to help your kitten understand the rules of the house. Browse through our handy guide on how to house train a kitten so you are able to communicate better with your pet.
It is important to teach your kitten social skills. The reason being that well-socialised cats are more comfortable with touch, and are also more confident around you. Kitties around 5-12 weeks are more accepting of change and new experiences, so it is crucial to socialise them at this time. As they grow older, kittens begin to become more apprehensive of new things, animals and people.
If you have adopted a feral kitten, it is recommended that for the first few days, you keep the kitten in an enclosure. This will ensure that they stay safe and stay put. Keep the enclosure, such as a cat carrier, close to an area where you spend the most time in, so that your kitten becomes used to having you (a human) around.
Mealtimes are also a perfect time to bond with your kitten and to be with them. Stay with them and encourage them with soft, gentle, appreciative words. Tell them a story, read the news, talk to them about your day, etc. The goal is to let them get used to the sound of your voice, especially if he or she is a feral kitten with no experience or contact with human beings. Speak to a cat rescuer or behaviourist on specific advice that is suited to your individual kitty.
Keep cat toys around once these initial socialisation stages have happened successfully. Encourage play to channel your kitten’s boisterous behaviour and turn it into something productive. This helps your kitten get used to the sounds and movements of different toys as well. Do not force them to come out to play, just tempt them with a toy and they will engage eventually. Let them know that you are safe and fun to be around.
Once the socialisation period is over, you can turn the focus on behavioural training. It is important to remember that unlike dogs, cats are more prone to ignoring you during this stage. Do not take it personally and keep up the daily sessions. Use positive reinforcement (praise and offer cat treats for good behaviour) and be very, very patient. Never physically punish your kitten as it will only intensify stress, fear, withdrawal, anxiety and trust issues; and make it difficult for them to be around you.
Place a cat treat close to your kitten’s nose and gently move the treat towards the top of his/her head. Your cat is likely to follow the treat and go into a sitting position. Reward them immediately with treats and gentle praise. If your kitten tries to jump up at the treat, move the treat to the ground until their feet are firmly on the floor. Over time, your cat will understand what is expected of him/her.
Bring out a bag of treats and crinkle the packet. Your kitten will associate this sound of the bag with kitten food. Soon, you can start this training from a distance. Crinkle the bag, give the command “come”, wait for your kitten to come to you and reward them with treats and praise. Practice this for three five-minute sessions a day. During each session, try to repeat the command training at least ten to fifteen times.
During cat training, it is important to teach the action of the word “stay”, you never know when it will come in handy. Start by giving your kitten his/her favourite treat, then move a little back and put your hand out. If he/she stays, reward them. If they do not, try again. Over time, you can increase the distance between the two of you. Once you have achieved sufficient distance, pair the hand signal with the word “stay”.
While most kittens learn to use the litter box on their own, some accidents are bound to occur from time to time. If this is very unusual for your cat, it may be due to an anxiety-inducing change in your pet’s environment. Cats will not use an unclean litter box so be sure to clean it out regularly.
So, how to litter train a kitten?
The spot you choose to place the litter box in needs to have access to clean water, food, toys and a bed or mat. This is until they learn about the litter box. When everything they need is in one place, they will make use of the litter box. Once he/she is used to relieving themselves in the litter box, you can shift the food bowl, water bowl, toys and bed to the desired place. Another way to introduce your kitten to the litter box is by placing your kitten in it soon after their meal or when you sense that they need to relieve themselves.
To conclude: Begin socialisation as early as possible. Be kind and patient with your kitten and give him/her a lot of time to learn and adjust. When kittens learn social skills, they also learn to respect boundaries and end up forming a healthier and stronger bond with you and your family.
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