kitty’s basic lessons

We all love kittens and we love well-behaved cats even more. This is the second in the series of things you should be teaching your kitten. Once your new kitten has settled in with her new family, there are a few more things that she needs to learn.

Don’t scratch the furniture

Bear in mind that many of the behaviours our pets display are natural to them, even though they may be very unwelcome to us! Scratching is one of these behaviours and it serves several purposes for cats. They scratch to remove the dull outer sheath of their claws to reveal the new, sharp claws. There are scent glands between the pads on their feet and scratching deposits some of the scent on the place being scratched. This scent signals to other cats that they are entering her territory.

Kittens and cats like to scratch from as high as they can reach and really pull down on their claws to get a good stretch. Bearing this in mind, a scratching post needs to be tall enough for your kitten to get a good stretch. It can be a log from the garden, or you can buy cat scratch posts from any good pet shop. Be careful of the covering, because once she starts to scratch on the post she will also scratch on anything that has the same feel under her feet, so a carpet-covered scratch post is not a good idea unless you don’t mind her scratching your carpets too.

The scratching post needs to be in an area she likes to scratch. If she has already started to scratch the sofa, put the scratching post right in front of it. If she is not keen on the post to start off with, you can rub some catnip onto the post to make it more appealing. Don’t ‘hide’ the scratching post in a corner of the room – it’s not much good there to signal to other cats she is there. Rather put it by a window or door she uses often.

Gentle play

The next thing that all members of the family need to adhere to is teaching her to play gently. I’m sure you have all played with cats who end up clawing you – it isn’t fun! Cats are very capable predators and they enjoy the thrill of the hunt much more than actually eating the mouse or bird.

People often ask why their cats still hunt and bring the carcasses into the house when they are well fed. There you have the answer – because it’s fun. If our cats were a lot bigger or humans a lot smaller, we could be in serious trouble!

What has this got to do with how we play with our kittens? We all do it. You put your hand under the blanket and wiggle your fingers and the kitten pounces. Move your hand a bit and she wiggles her bum and pounces again. An excellent game until she is an adult cat and is chasing your feet, grabbing on and biting you.

Wonder of toys

You need to get your kitten toys she can play with from a young age. These can be anything she can chase and catch. Rolled-up paper, balls, feather toys on a string – all these will be firm favourites. Remember she needs to be able to catch the toy, otherwise she is going to get very frustrated! Boxes are wonderful toys for cats too.

Grooming time

While she is still young, get her used to being brushed – especially if she is one of the long-haired breeds like the Persian. Make sure you have some yummy treats ready, like cooked chicken. After every brush stroke (maybe even stroke with your hand at first), she gets a treat. She will soon learn that good things happen when she’s being groomed. If she gets a big knot of fur, it’s kinder to snip it out with sharp scissors (being very careful not to snip her skin) and make sure you have lots of treats for her for staying still.

Here, kitty

Don’t believe people when they tell you that cats can’t be trained – she can and quite easily too! The most important thing you can teach your kitten to do is to come when she is called. Start off in a room with no other distractions. Make sure you have some yummy treats, and then sit on the floor or a chair and call her. You want to use her name and the cue “come”, so you can say “kitty, come”. Do this a few times in the room then move to a different area in the house and do the same.

Only once she is coming to you from anywhere in the house should you move into the garden. Do the same thing – call and treat her. It is a good idea to always call your kitten into the house for feeding time. That way you know she is safe.

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