In trying to decide whether or not to adopt a kitten, one generally contemplates two issues which can and do arise with having a pet kitten: litter training and scratching. In the attempt to domesticate a feline, it is important to remember that one fact. Cats are animals, and with that come their inherent nature to revert to habits of the wild and instinctive behaviors which assist them in the wild. By keeping this in mind, it will help the new owner approach teaching and training with patience.
Litter Box Training
Once the decision to adopt a kitten has been made, it is important that you find out some information about your kittens life up to that point. If you adopt from a shelter or pet store, you may want to ask where they got the kitten from. If you adopt from someone whose cat had kittens, again ask what their life was like up to the point you adopt. It is important to know whether or not the kittens were born and raised as indoor or outdoor kittens, because this knowledge will help you in your efforts to litter box train once you have them in your home.
If the kitten was born and raised outside, they may have a tendency to want to maintain those outside habits inside your home. You may find that they might try and use your plants as a litter box. A kitten that was born and raised, for the first several weeks, inside by its mother will have the advantage of its mother’s help in the litter training process, and other domestications. Kittens, generally, can begin to use a litter box at about four weeks of age, and a kitten being raised without its mother or adult cat will take slightly longer to litter train; so, keep this in mind when you begin the task of litter training your kitten.
When you bring your kitten home, you should already have planned out where you will keep the litter box. Make sure the litter box is not too large because that may create a probable right from the start, and you want to make this as easy as possible. There are several types of litter available: clay litter, fine grained sand like litter, ones that absorb order and clump up the urine for easy removal, scented and unscented, finely ground-up newspaper litter, and even wood pellets and sawdust. Clay litter seems to be a good choice to use with kittens.
Now that you have prepared the litter location for your kitten, you are ready to start training. Once you bring your kitten home, you should introduce it to the litter box. Begin by placing your kitten into the litter box after they wake up, as well as a half an hour after playtime and meal times. Stimulate the litter by stirring it, and by taking the kittens front paws and help it to simulate scratching in the litter. Do not try to restrain them in the litter box, and allow them to jump in and out of it freely, because if you restrain them you may frighten them. This might cause your kitten to fear the litter box, and you do not want to create a potential problem. Be consistent and patient and your kitten will catch on to the process. Praise and reward their positive achievements.
If, however, your kitten was born and raised outside, you may see a tendency to retain their instinctive outdoor habits. For this type of situation, you may want to confine your kitten to one specific room during the training period. Also, you may want to utilize fine grained sand or loose soil and leaves in the beginning stage of litter training, and gradually, as your kitten gets the hang of using the litter box, switch over to clay litter.
Also, when and if your kitten has an accident and uses anything other then the litter box, you will want to clean the area they have chosen really well. Your local pet supply store should be able to recommend a good cleaning product to use, and it is important to clean and deodorize the areas of accidents so that your kitten will not associate this area as the correct place to carry out their business. Training your kitten can sometimes be a frustrating stage in your kittens life and your life, but staying calm and keeping to a routine can help assist you through this time period.
Let’s discuss scratching, a common behavioral problem, which is faced by kitten owners, and some tips for handling this problem. Cats, by nature, come with natural biological instincts and behaviors, which we try to domesticate. So, of course, we should expect some reservation out of our cats, as they try to maintain inborn processes; and, when dealing with a kitten, like our own small children, it takes time, commitment, consistency, and patience to eventually see the desired outcome; in this case, a domesticated cat. Much of this will depend on their personalities. Some kittens may be easier to train and correct undesired behaviors because their personality may be calm, and complacent, while other kittens may be harder to train because they are stubborn and independent.
Remember, this is a biological trait, a means of defense even. So, this is also an important function for your kitten. As owners, we are quick to punish for this behavior, instead of understanding why they do it. Of course, we do not want them to claw up our furniture, so we have to be prepared. Before you bring your new kitten home, you should purchase a few scratching posts, and encourage the use of those versus your furniture. However, if your kitten still has a liking for your furniture, try and cover it will plastic. This should lessen the want to scratch it, and may encourage your kitten to use the scratching posts. If they continue to go for your furniture, you should implement spraying or squirting them with water, while you firmly say “No”. As with implementing a consistent method of punishment, you should also learn to reward and praise your kitten when they do use the scratching post. You never want to yell, or hit your kitten when they engage in the undesired behavior. It is cruel, and usually does not train them to stop the behavior; in fact, it may only encourage your kitten to not trust you and make the behavior worse.
A few final methods, many pet stores carry perimeter sprays. You can spray this around the furniture piece your kitten generally seems to scratch, and the scent will attempt to hinder your kittens need to go near that piece of furniture. Then, last, there is always de-clawing. There are pros and cons to this last method. When one approaches this choice, remember that your kitten is a feline, and with that came the natural predatory instincts of hunting, and stalking. Ultimately, if your kitten is giving you more than your share of problems, with regards to scratching, then consult your veterinarian for more tips and guidance.