Kitten Behavioural Problems
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Kitten Behavioural Problems

Cats
Food & Nutrition

Kittens are gorgeous, but can sometimes cause problems. They have loads of energy and sometimes this is used in ways not suited to home life. Most kittens are taught to use litter trays by their mothers, but some can't always get it right. And some kittens are scared and spend all their time hiding. It is often difficult for an inexperienced owner to know what to do for the best. So let us take a look at some of the commoner kitten behavioural problems...

My Kitten Sometimes Pees on the Floor

Most kittens know what a litter tray is, but when they are very young they sometimes get caught short or forget where they are meant to 'go'. If this happens, gently pick up your kitten and put him in the litter tray so that he knows where it is. Try to watch him, and when he looks like he needs the litter tray, take him to it and place him on it. He will soon get the idea. Whatever you do, don't shout at him, act annoyed, or rub his nose in his pee. This will simply make him confused and unhappy, and he won't understand why you're doing it.

If he continues to pee in the wrong place, find out if there is a specific reason. It could be that he was previously used to a different sort of cat litter; some cats don't like the feel of wood chip litter, for example. Is another cat guarding the litter tray, or is it too far away for him to get to it? You may need more than one litter tray, and at least one on each floor is a good idea. If the problem continues, take him to the vet to check that there is no medical problem involved. But hopefully he will soon use his litter tray all the time with no further problems.

My Kitten is Very Timid and Introverted

The root of this probably lies in the way he was brought up. A kitten who is not used to being handled may be wary of humans. But you can give him more confidence if you go about it in the right way. Never reach for a timid cat; let him come to you. Reassure him by speaking softly while stroking him gently. He'll feel less vulnerable if he's on a raised surface such as a chair, so that you're not towering above him. Avoid making sudden movements or loud noises, and keep visitors away until he's more confident. And make sure he has a place of his own to go and hide if he feels stressed. In time he will learn to trust you, but some cats are always more timid than others, and he may never be a super-confident cat, no matter what you do. That is simply the way he is. Some cats are always scared of things like visitors, vacuum cleaners, or loud noises, and there is not much you can do to change that. However, if he carries on being timid,it may help to get a plug-in dispenser of cat pheromones. There are various brands of these; they plug into the electric socket, and emit substances that help cats to feel calm and relaxed. It is certainly worth a try.

My Kitten Attacks Hands and Ankles

Some kittens have not been with their litter mates long enough to learn to inhibit their natural biting behaviour. Others are just playing, but are too rough. You need to teach your kitten that hands and feet are not toys. If he lies in wait and then attacks, make a loud noise when you approach him to alert him to your presence. At other times simply take away the hand or foot and gently tell him 'No'. Never play with him using a hand as an object he can swipe or bite, not even when wearing gloves; that way he starts to think that this is acceptable behaviour. Instead, provide suitable and fun toys such as dangling objects, toy mice, balls, and crinkly paper. He will soon learn what are play objects that can be used as substitute prey, and that hands and feet are not in this category.

My Kitten is Chewing Holes in my Sweaters

Some cats like to chew on fabric and wool. It is possible that this is a substitute for suckling their mum, but this is not certain. The best thing to do is provide him with more fun activities and toys, so that he finds something he prefers to do rather than chew on things. He will probably grow out of this behaviour in time.

My Kitten Digs up my Plants in the Garden

Digging is an important part of a cat's defaecating ritual, so he is probably just been to the loo or is preparing to go. He probably thinks your perfectly dug flowerbeds are just right for a toilet. The best way to stop him doing this is to provide a 'better' toilet – either a sandbox outside, or an indoor litter tray, or preferably both of these. He will soon learn where is the appropriate place to 'go'.

My Kitten is Starting to go Outside and is Straying too Far From Home

The only way to ensure that he stays safely at home is to keep him inside, or to have a fully enclosed garden. But it will help if your kitten is neutered as soon as he is old enough, so that he does not wander while looking for a mate. Also, make sure he is microchipped so that you can get him back should he really wander away. You can also plant cat mint and other plants attractive to cats in your own garden, so that he does not feel the need to wander. But some cats do like to wander anyway, and it may be impossible to stop him if he has unrestricted access to the outside world.

If you are having other problems with your kitten, the golden rule is to try to 'think like a cat'. Look at things from the kitten's point of view, and try to understand why he is doing what he does. Is he unhappy, is he scared, does he not understand what is required of him, or is he simply a baby who is having fun in an inappropriate way? This will hopefully enable you to come up with a good solution. And enjoy your kitten, as he will grow up soon...too soon!

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