As promised, this month I’m going to go over some ways to help make your kitten a well behaved member of your family. Everyone knows they should train a puppy, but most people don’t go much further than making sure their kitten is able to find its litter box. There is so much more you can do to help your kitten be a good citizen.
Scratching is a normal kitten behavior and making sure your kitten has appropriate areas to scratch is very important. Place the scratching posts in areas that are convenient for your kitten. They like to scratch when they wake up, so put one near the sleeping area. Additional posts can be placed around the house to discourage scratching on inappropriate items. When it comes to scratching material, one size doesn’t fit all. Offer different types of material (cardboard, carpet, wood) and in vertical and horizontal planes. Your kitten will soon tell you what they like best, and you can unclutter your house with the rest of the stuff they don’t like. Just like with a puppy, if you can’t monitor your kitten, have him in a safe, confined area with all the necessities (food, water, toys, litter box, scratching post) to prevent unwanted damage.
If your kitten insists on scratching your brand new couch, try putting double sided tape on the areas he is interested in and place a scratching post nearby try to redirect his interest. When you see your kitten using the scratching post, a little bit of positive reinforcement goes a long way. Avoid negative reinforcement (spraying with water, loud startling noises) as this can turn your happy kitten into a scaredy cat. Now it the time to get your kitten used to nail trimming.
House soiling is the most common behavioral problem we see and it is also one of the main reasons cats are re-homed or euthanized. Make sure the litter box is easy to get to and is appealing to the kitten. If you have a large house, make sure you place the boxes in convenient areas for easy access. Do not place the boxes near noisy appliances which may frighten the kitten. If you are having problems getting your kitten litter box trained, get him in for an exam to make sure there isn’t a medical problem.
Socialization is important for puppies and kittens. But we are less likely to load a kitten up in the car and take them to kitten classes (if those even exist.) Introducing your kitten to other people and pets in their home environment should be done in a gentle, stress free manner. Let the kitten explore new people and animals, don’t force anything on them. Familiarize the kitten with its carrier. Put the carrier out in the open and put toys and treats in it. This makes it a happy place, and future trips in the carrier easier on everyone. Try to “examine” your cat, mimicking a veterinary exam, looking at the eyes, ears, massage the body and feet, which will make future veterinary exams more familiar.
Provide an enriched environment for your kitten. Food-puzzle toys, shelving and perches are ways you to keep your kittens little mind (and claws) busy. You can also train you cat. Many cats respond positively to training exercises, using treats as rewards or clicker training.
As usual, feel free to contact me with any questions, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit our Facebook page or website: www.wildernessvet.com. Farmers’ Market season is coming, I will be in the booth a few Saturdays this summer, hope to see you there!