So you just got a kitten-an adorable ball of fluff! But not that adorable ball of fluff is waking you up at night to play, playing too rough, and causing havoc. What can you do to make life with your new kitten easier? Train your kitten! But kittens aren’t trainable like dogs or are they?
Cats and kittens are very trainable, you just have to learn what reward they will work for. And realize they aren’t small dogs when training them!
Find a treat your cat loves. This may be little bites of canned food, soft treats, dry treats, small pieces of chicken, a toy. As long as it is safe and your cat loves it-this can the reward. Use this reward when training only; don’t allow your kitten access to it all the time or it no longer is a great reward!
Work with your cat when they are hungry if your are using a food reward-your cat will want the reward that much more.
Consider using a clicker in your training as sometimes this makes things easier for your cat. Visit Karen Pryor’s website for more info on clicker training.
Don’t use punishment as cats do not respond well to this.
What are some things you can train your kitten to do?
Sit, lay down, fetch
Go into their carrier: This makes car rides and vet visits so much easier if your kitten knows to go into their carrier and is comfortable hanging out in the carrier. Start with having the carrier out all of the time in an area your kitten hangs out. Then reward the kitten with treats for going into or investigating the carrier. If the carrier is a familiar thing your kitten will not be as scared of it when it is time to get in the carrier. And even better if your kitten will willing walk into the carrier!
Being handled: your kitten will need to be used to having their ears, mouth, feet, and body handle. Start with gentle touching of the kitten and rewarding when the kitten allow gentle handling. This really makes vet visits that much better! Also work towards especially allowing the feet to be calmly handled as this will make nail trims easier.
Play appropriately: teach your kitten to play with toys and not your hands/legs/feet. Use toys such as toys in poles, balls, etc to interact with your kitten. If they bite you, make a loud “ouch” but do not hit/punish the kitten in another way. Try to distract them with an appropriate toy.
Make your kitten learn to work for meals. Instead if leaving food out all of the time, let your kitten get their food from a food toy/puzzle. Play games by hiding the food and teaching the kitten to seek out their food. This helps tire your ball of energy out and as they get older keeps them leaner and more active.
Most of all enjoy your kitten!
Boo Donoho, DVM