Wednesday, January 27, 2010 8:20 AM

Turning Kittens into Pussycats

Everyone knows how much fun kittens are. Not only are they cute, cuddly, squeaky and goofy, but they do the craziest things: Climb your pant leg, knock over lamps as they wildly chase each other around the living room, stuff like that. What may seem cute and not-very-destructive when an animal weighs one pound will not be quite as attractive in a cat ten times that size. Therefore, it is up to you to make sure that the unfettered energy of youth does not translate into bad habits carried into adulthood.

Let's take the example of your kitten using its claws to climb your leg. Kittens don't know how to sheath their claws, and they are too small to jump onto furniture, counters, or whatever. So, they just climb. This gets them where they need to go, and exercises their leg muscles as well as those that support the claws; it is also good practice for learning to climb trees. There comes a time, though, when they are too big for this behavior and it becomes destructive. Unless you want your cat to climb your drapes, your shower curtain, etc., you must break this habit quickly. When our cats were several weeks old, J. and I pet-sat for the friends who took the fourth kitten from the litter. Imagine my surprise when, as I'm preparing his food, this cat starts climbing my leg! I had broken my kittens of that habit early on. I unceremoniously swiped him off my leg, saying, "NO!" The next time he looked like he was about to try it again, I pointed my finger at him, again saying, "NO!" He didn't do it again.

You also must teach your kitten to "play nice", or you will wind up with many scratches on your hands. When kitty starts using his claws, gently squeeze his paws. When he starts getting overwrought, stop playing; continuing will only ruin the training. He will soon learn to play without scratching or (god forbid) biting you. When your kittens' roughhousing gets too wild, break it up before any injuries occur. There will always be disagreements in the multi-cat household, but they will be less serious than if you just let them fight it out. Be a referee; it's your job to teach them what the house rules are.

Growling (another sign of aggression) must also be curbed. If cats growl at each other, break it up. Many kittens tend to growl when fed, even when fed alone. If this happens, pick up the bowl until the growling stops, then give it back. Do this as many times as it takes (it won't take very many); you should never have to worry about your cat nailing you if you take his food away. Of course, you probably won't need to ever do that. The point is that you are the boss, not the cat. Do the same thing if she growls while carrying a toy; remember, starting this training when they are young will both save you injury and teach the animal who sets the rules. Animals who think they can dominate you are not fun to have around, particularly when they grow up!
Chat later!


草莓 Says:
January 30, 2010 at 9:12 AM


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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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