Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Educating Kitty

Kittens are so cute they can easily get away with just about anything so it is easy to let basic discipline slide.  As your kitten grows it is important to teach proper behavior before your cute kitten grows into an cat who is out of control.

Start with socialization

Interact with your kitten as much as possible. Pick them up often, hold and cuddle them. Rub their backs, bellies, and faces to get them used to being handled. Introduce them to a variety of different people including adults and children. Kittens who have been well socialized, and are accustomed to being held, will develop into sociable cats.

Encourage play

Kittens learn through play and need both the mental and physical stimulation that it provides.  Be sure to offer age appropriate toys for every stage of their growth.  Check toys often for loose or broken pieces that could be swallowed and be aware of toys, such as the "cat tamer" that involve long strings or rope, . The cat tamer has a stick handle attached with a long string with an object dangling from it. Both cats and kittens love them but they can be dangerous if cats are left to play with it unattended.  I have seen cats become tangled up in the string, then not being able to free themselves, which could be tragic if the string were to wrap around the neck. Same goes for balls of yarn - a fun but dangerous plaything for kitty.

Discourage unwanted behavior

As your kitten grows they will begin to jump and climb. This is the time to decide what areas will be "off limits" to your furry friend.  If you don't want kitty on the dinner table or kitchen counter, for example, you need to teach early on that these are not appropriate places for them.  To teach kitty not to go on the counter, table, or other "off limits area:

  • Squirt Water - If you find kitty where they shouldn't be gently spray them with water from a spray bottle.    Since cats don't like to be sprayed with water this will send them running and , after a few encounters with the spray, kitty will know this is not a desirable place.
  • Block the Area - Temporary block access to the off-limits area that kitty likes to frequent.  Once they can no longer access the spot it will only be a matter of days before kitty's desire to visit that spot will be a thing of the past.
  • Apply Double Stick Tape - To make an area unwelcoming, put down removable double stick tape.  When kitty steps on the surface the sticky feel of the tape will feel offensive to them and they will quicly jump down.
Since climbing and jumping are natural instincts, being allowed to do so is necessary to the health and happiness of your cat.  Appropriate, elevated areas should be made available such as a windowsill perch or cat "condo".

The Scratching

Cats scratch both to remove the outer dead layers of claws and to mark territory. Provide a variety of attractive and inviting scratching posts, towers, boxes,etc., placed in kitty's favorite areas to encourage their use. Discourage scratching in unwanted areas using the methods above.  Trim nails regularly to minimize the need and desire for your cat to scratch.  Begin regular nail trimming at an early age and your cat will be more likely to tolerate it as an adult. Cats should never be declawed as it is a painful procedure that forever changes their ability to walk properly and has even be know to negatively affect their personality.

Keeping kitty both physically and mentally active at all stages of  life will result in a happy and healthy cat!

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