August 11, 2016

Tips For Training Kittens

This article is focused on training a kitten, not a fully-grown cat. If you’re the proud owner of an adult cat, you may want check out this article "Cat Training Basics" for training help. If you do own a kitten, however, feel free to keep reading to know more on tips for training kittens!

Tips For Training Kittens

Toys are very useful in engaging kittens like how this kitten is reacting to a piece of wire.

Do Not Treat Your Kitten Like An Adult Cat
Before you progress any further in training your kitty, you most definitely need to get acquainted with this point first. A kitten and a cat differ vastly when it comes to care requirements, and mixing them up may cause quite a few bumps along the road. Here are a few pointers to help you along when your kitten goes through different age stages:

  • < 8 Weeks: It is ideal to keep kittens with their mothers when they are younger than 8 weeks old as they are still developing their vision and leg coordination. In addition, they are also unable to independently regulate their body temperatures. If keeping them with their mothers is not possible, the kittens will need to be bottle-fed every two hours until they are 4 weeks old. They will also need assistance (stimulation) when it comes to urinating and defecating.
  • 8-11 Weeks: Kittens older than 8 weeks should be weaned off their mothers and starting to eat kibble. They will also start to develop more complex motor skills.
  • 2-4 Months: Due to a rapid growth spurt, a kitten of this age will need 3-4 meals a day in order to fuel their energy bursts. It is recommended that these meals contain around 30% protein.
  • 4-6 Months: Kittens at this age will start to reach sexual maturity.

Rewards and Socialization
Now that you know what to do with your kitten at each growth stage, it’s time to move on to aspects of training! Socialization is a highly important factor when it comes to future interactions between it and other animals/humans. If a kitten isn’t socialized/exposed to enough phenomena, it will grow up to be more nervous and on edge than other felines that have gone through early socialization. Important areas in which your kitten should be exposed to include:

  • Litter boxes: Help your kitten get used to the presence and usage of its litter box by placing it into the box after meals
  • Grooming: The sooner your kitten is exposed to grooming sessions, the sooner it will take for it to get used to it – this will definitely help in future sessions when your kitten grows up.
  • Other household animals: The most common animal would be a dog – it is best to introduce a kitten to a socialized and cat-friendly canine while the kitten is still young. If you are introducing a kitten to a fellow feline, make sure that both have been vaccinated.
  • Playtime: During playtime, it is important to teach your kitten that it should be playing with the toy and not your hands/fingers. Wand toys are useful in this aspect.
  • Crate/carrier: Training your kitten to feel comfortable inside its carrier will make life easier in the future for when you have to bring it out of the house. Feeding it inside the carrier is a good way to start training. Leave the door to the carrier open so it can go in and out whenever it wants. As it starts to get used to being inside, close the door for short periods of time and see how it adapts. Move on from there.

As your kitten starts to familiarize itself with its surroundings, keep food rewards at hand for when it does something that you approve of. Reward-based training (positive reinforcement) is very effective, and your kitten will more likely than not come to associate rewards with the approved actions. Try not to use physical punishment for when it does something wrong – simply walk away and ignore your kitten when it displays unwanted behavior.

Consider Clicker Training
If you don’t own a clicker, an item that makes a clicking sound (e.g. A pen) will work just fine. Clicker training serves as an immediate positive reinforcement technique, and will work best when followed up by a treat. The instant a feline hears the click following an approved action, it will learn through repetition that what it’s doing is the right thing.

Training a kitten is very different from training a mature or adult cat. You can apply the same principals when training a kitten. There are many things to consider especially when it comes to socialization. This is crucial to the future development of the kitten and if a kitten is not well socialize, it may lead to a lot of social problems down the road for both the kitten and its owners. Follow these tips for training kittens and you will have a easier time training your kittens.


Image Credit
Photo by Pen Waggener - CC BY 2.0

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