There are few things as adorable as baby kittens. Spending some time learning how to train them will be much easier than trying to undo bad habits in older cats. There are several things to consider when learning about their development. This article provides you with basic information to help your new "baby" adjust to its new home. As your new companion grows, you'll want to know how to properly care for her and make sure she continues to be well-behaved.
- Don't overload your kitten the first few days or weeks you bring her home. Training is a gradual process. Introduce her one day at a time to the rooms in your house, making sure she always knows where her food, water and litter box are located. This is important so your kitten doesn't become too stressed while getting to know you and her new house.
- Keep your kitten separate from your other pets in the beginning. When you do introduce them, supervise them and be prepared to separate them if need be. Some experts recommend bathing pets right before you introduce them so they will smell alike.
- Set up a litter box (her own if you have other cats) with a few inches of litter in it, away from her food source. Litter box training for a new kitten is quite different than what you provide for your older cats. Cat care concerning litter boxes for older, trained cats is much easier as they will oftentimes share a litter box when they become comfortable with one another. Your baby kitty needs its own litter box. With your new kitten, be prepared to scoop out any material twice a day. If she is less than 3 months old, you should not use a clumping litter; clumping litters can cause problems in the digestive systems of kittens less than three months old. To teach her to use the kitty litter boxes, put her into the box and drag her paw through the litter. Most of them figure out what to do from here, but just to make certain, place her in the litter box after eating, in the morning, before bed and after she sleeps. Most will learn how to use litter boxes quickly, but if yours doesn't, consider if the litter box is too close to the kitten's food or not being kept clean enough. Never, ever hit or punish a kitten that misses the litter box, but give her treats and positive words for using it correctly.
- Give your kitten a scratching post and show her what do with it. You can make the cat scratching post more usable by rubbing catnip on it. If you catch her scratching furniture or the floor, make the spot less desirable by covering it with aluminum foil, double-sided tape or putting a net or tulle over the top of it. They rarely like the sound aluminum foil makes, they don't like getting their paws stuck to tape, and they hate getting their claws snagged as they would on netting or tulle.
Adult cats will continue to enjoy scratching posts so be sure to keep it around as your kitten grows.
- Use positive reinforcement. When you catch her using the litter box or using the scratching post, be prepared with positive words, stroking and a quick treat. Kitten behavior can be molded through consistent use of positive reinforcement.
- Teach your kitten how to play. While this may seem like common sense when it comes to overall kitten information, some people don't actually realize the importance of teaching them to play. We all agree it's very cute when they pounce on fingers and toes. However they will continue this when they're cats; and it's not so cute, but painful. Give her toys she can play with such as a sock stuffed with catnip and sewn closed. If your kitten pounces on your fingers or toes, emit a high-pitched noise or tell her 'NO' firmly. Do not hit her for inappropriate playing, but give her treats, positive words and pet her when she plays appropriately. The end result will be appropriate cat behavior as she matures.
- If you decide to discipline your cat, many experts recommended using the squirt bottle method, sparingly. Give her a quick squirt with a squirt bottle filled with water when she does something you don't like such as scratching furniture or jumping onto counters or tables. Many experts debate the efficacy of this method since cats tend to retaliate with other poor behavior or continue to do the same behavior anyway. If you combine this method with positive reinforcement (treats, stroking and positive words) you will likely see better results from your training strategies.
- To find more information about caring for and training your kitten or pet cats, read some books on the topic. Although there are numerous books on taking care of felines, I recommend Kitten Care&Training: An Owner's Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet by Amy D. Shojai and Kitten Training for Kids by Sarah Whitehead and Jane Burton.
Remember that you are also learning valuable experience as the new owner of a pet kitten, especially if it's your first. Being consistent is the key for all pet parents, but above all, the main factor is to love your new family member unconditionally.