Kitten Training 101

You might think that cats are independent and don’t need training like dogs do, but you’d be sadly mistaken.  Here are some tips and tricks to training your new kitten along with the benefits of the training.

  • Prepare your kitten for excessive handling: By frequently handling your young kitten, you’ll be preparing him or her for physical examinations by your veterinarian, nail trimming, cleaning ears, brushing teeth, and more!
  • Socialize your kitten to lots of people: Make it so you have the cool cat that comes out to play instead of bolting and hiding under the dishwasher when you have company over by introducing lots of people of varying ages, genders, and ethnicities during their socialization period [typically 2-14 weeks of age].
  • Introduce your kitten to varying experiences: If you want to be one of those people who walks their cat, make sure to introduce the harness and leash as early as possible.  If you hope to bring home a dog someday, introduce your kitten to some of your friends’ cat-friendly dogs.  These types of experiences will make your cat more agreeable to these changes as adults.
  • Teach them to love their carriers: Many owners only pull the cat carrier out when it’s time for the cat to go to a scary place [the veterinarian, the cat sitters, a long road trip, etc.].  By leaving the cat carrier out all the time, your kitten will be used to the carrier and won’t hide each time you’re trying to take him or her somewhere.  Make the cat carrier like a little home for them by adding a blanket, a favorite toy, and even feeding them in or near the carrier.
  • Have them play with toys, not hands: Kitten-play is a preparation tool for hunting as adult cats.  Playing with your hands involved teaches your kitten that it is okay for him to use his teeth or claws on you.  Instead, redirect playtime to a cat toy.  This will keep you and your guests safer as those baby kitten teeth and tiny kitten nails become true hunting tools.
  • Only use positive reinforcement: Cats do not respond well to shaming, yelling, or any other negative reinforcement.  Cats are most efficient learners when there is instead a reward.  This can be their canned food, treats, and praise.  When introducing your kitten to something new or trying to teach them something, make sure you’re prepared with their favorite foods and lots of praise.  Optimal training time is actually just before mealtime, so you know your kitten is hungry and willing to learn for their food!

Have you ever trained a cat before?  Let us know in the comments below!