Kittens are quick to learn, and they respond well to stroking and other signs of affection. But they can also be very timid and feel vulnerable. And they want to experiment and play with everything. This means that even the best behaved kitten will need to be told what is acceptable and what is not, and new owners often have many questions on how to train their new baby cat to be good member of the household. Here are the answers to a few FAQs...
Scratching is instinctive behaviour for cats; they do it to sharpen their claws and mark out their territory. So your kitten is only doing what comes naturally. It is good to stop her doing this as soon as possible, because once your kitten gets used to doing it, it will be harder to stop. Try tapping a rolled-up newspaper next to the kitten, at the same time saying “No” quite firmly. Or squirt water at the kitten's body (not its head) using a water pistol or spray bottle. Kittens hate loud noises and water, so this should work. In addition, buy your kitten a scratching post – or several - or make one by winding rope on to a thick cardboard tube or piece of wood. Hopefully this will show her that there are better things to scratch than your furniture. If that does not work, fix a piece of smooth, shiny material over the area of furniture that your kitten likes to scratch. Cats don't like slippery material, so this should convince her that thee must b better places to scratch.
Many cats like to observe their surroundings from tabletops or other high surfaces. Also, kittens are naturally inquisitive, and will investigate everything, often hoping that they can find something to eat or play with. Even if you don't mind your kitten jumping on to tables, do discourage her from getting on to kitchen surfaces, since this can be dangerous. A kitten could jump on to a hot part of the stove, or overturn hot food or pots of hot water. So you really need to teach your kitten that the kitchen surfaces are out of bounds. To do this, put your kitten on the floor every time she tries to jump on a kitchen surface, saying “No” firmly. If she persists, tap a rolled-up newspaper on the surface near her, and that should stop her. If it takes a little while – and some kittens can be persistent – make sure you turn off the stove and remove all dangerous articles when you are not in the kitchen, or keep the door shut. Luckily, most cats do learn in time that kitchen surfaces are not for them.
Make sure your kitten knows from the start that this is not permitted, by removing her from the table and saying “No” every time she tries it. Many people think it is cute when a tiny kitten tries to eat their food, but if you let her, this will become a habit, and it won't be so cute when your cat is fully grown and you have guests for dinner! It may be a good idea to feed your kitten before you sit down to eat, so that she is not hungry at mealtimes. If she continues to beg for food or try to jump up to get some, you may need to shut her out of the room until the meal is finished.
Well socialised kittens should not be frightened of new people. But if you got your kitten from a rescue centre, or don't know its background, it may not have been socialised and handled from an early age. And even some friendly and sociable kittens, who appear to have no reason to fear people, will run away when they see strangers. It is simply that some kittens are more confident than others, just like people.
Don't try to force your kitten to meet new people if she doesn't want to. On the other hand, make sure she is in the same room as your friends; shut the door if necessary. Tell your friends to just ignore the kitten if she is nervous, and let her hide under a table or in another safe place if that is what she wants to do. She will come out in her own time, once she realises that no harm is going to come to her. The natural inquisitiveness of kittens will win in the end, and she will want to see who these visitors are. When this happens, allow your friends to approach and stroke the kitten if she seems to be happy with that, but don't let them try to pick her up until she clearly wants them to do that. Slowly and gently is the rule where kittens are concerned.
You may have to teach your child how to get on with your kitten, rather than the other way round! Children are not always sure how to treat small animals, and may pull their tails or pick them up inappropriately if they are not taught how to deal with them. Kittens, on the other hand, are usually very tolerant of young children, and want to play with them. But they might scratch or bite a child unintentionally, particularly if they are handled roughly. Don't scold the kitten if she does this; simply remove her and let both the child and kitten calm down. It is always best to supervise kittens and toddlers when they are together, to prevent situations like this occurring. In time, your kitten and your young child should get on well.
Kittens actually require surprisingly little in the way of training. Simply be patient and allow your kitten to become used to her new home, and all should be well. She may be somewhat lively and over-exuberant, but that is simply because she is very young. Remember, kittens grow up and turn into cats very quickly, often far too quickly!