Mother cats represent the quintessential parent.
Giving birth to a litter of kittens that don't even have eyesight for nearly two weeks, mother cats oversee every aspects of these little creatures' earliest survival and education – from finding the milk source to developing bathroom habits to learning hunting skills.
Following 10-12 weeks of receiving expert parenting at the hands of their mother, kittens finally become ready to cultivate a human relationship. But what then must we, as humans, do to ensure a smooth transition and a continuation of the necessary lifelong habits the mother cat began to instill?
The so-called sensitive period of development for kittens occurs between two and seven weeks of age. During this time, a kitten is most influenced by its environmental conditions. But make no mistake – despite this period taking place under the mother cat's guidance, humans play a significant role in the developmental journey from kitten to cat.
Happy and confident adult cats are the product of good decisions and correct treatment from birth until the juvenile period (around six months of age). And by adhering to the advice contained within these tips for training a kitten, you can have a lasting impact on your kitten's long-term contentment.
1. Convert Your Kitten Into a Socially Friendly Cat
Ideally, the process for socializing a kitten should begin immediately for new owners. Generally-speaking, “the younger the better” is an appropriate mantra to apply when determining when to start conditioning your feline for affection, so long as the kitten is at least 10-12 weeks old and has been properly weaned from her mother. Raise your kitten in a household marked by kindness and absent of physical punishment.
But even if your kitten is older or has already begun to exude reclusive traits, it's not too late to provide both proper rehabilitation and life-defining socialization:
- Arrange for rehabilitation to occur in quiet circumstances, such as you sitting in a large room armed with treats.
- Without moving from your chair, toss a treat in your cat's direction, and continue doing so while gradually luring your cat closer.
- Entice the cat to take the treat from your hand, gradually moving your hand toward your lap, and only releasing the treat if the cat puts its paws on your lap.
2. Everything in Moderation
As with many aspects of life, moderation is key when it comes to interacting with your kitten. If kittens are ignored, they tend to become self-sufficient to a fault. Conversely, too much attention can have negative consequences as well, such as the development of over-attachment or attention-seeking behaviors.
Considering these extremes from a handling perspective, the absence of handling your kitten will assuredly contribute to longterm aloofness, but handling your kitten roughly and excessively can be equally detrimental. Handle your kitten in a manner she will appreciate – acceptance, relaxation and purring are positive signs. However, resistance and an attempt to escape your company indicate it is time to stop.
3. Focus on Using Positive Reinforcement to Reward Acceptable Behavior
Punishment teaches a kitten nothing, except how to avoid said punishment. Furthermore, punishment after the fact is not only inappropriate, but also pointless. Consequently, kitten owners should focus on being patient and considerate while using positive reinforcement to reward acceptable behavior.
Reward your cat for positive behavior by providing something your cat really likes to eat as a food reward, such as small pieces of tuna or chicken. Conducting training prior to mealtime may serve to increase the session's effectiveness, as a hungry cat is more likely to be interested in food rewards.
4. Consider Clicker Training
With the new wave of pet training focused exclusively on positive or reward-based encouragement, a clicker device has emerged as a viable training tool. Clicks made by small plastic clickers represent the most consistent way of acknowledging the successful accomplishment of a behavior. While the clicking sound may be meaningless at first, it won't take long for your kitten to realize the sound signals something positive, such as receiving a treat.
Once this association has been drawn by your kitten, the clicker can be used to reward any desired behavior instantly, accurately and even from a distance. And it doesn't have to be overly time-consuming. First, pair a click with a reward; then, begin to click and award a treat only when your kitten has engaged in a desirable behavior. Before long, your kitten will draw the connection between the clicker and the reward, thus you will be able to decide what behaviors you wish to reward (and therefore, promote) and what you prefer to ignore.