How to Train Your Kitten

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Bringing your kitten home for the first time is an experience like no other. You quickly become accustomed to being greeted by its sweet purrs, and that special way it always knows when to snuggle up to you.

What you’re not so used to are all the challenges. From toileting problems to disobeying your orders, there’s a range of problems you will encounter that are simply part and parcel with caring for an untrained kitten.

The good news is that with training, your kitten will learn how to behave in a more positive, healthy, and constructive manner.

Here are five steps you should follow if you want to effectively (and efficiently!) train your kitten:

  1. Socialize Your Kitten From the Get-Go
  2. Train Your Kitten to Follow Your Commands
  3. Teach Your Kitten to Use the Litter Box
  4. Give Your Cat Toys To Progress Their Development
  5. Encourage Good Behavior with Positive Reinforcement
  6. Socialize Your Kitten From the Get-Go

Just like humans, cats learn by modeling the behaviors around them. In order for your kitten to develop positive behaviors they can carry into their old age, you should start socializing them from two weeks old.

Every day, handle your kitten for around 5-10 minutes. You should also introduce them to a variety of people to accustom them to human interaction. Making a habit of playing with your kitten will also provide them an opportunity to productively channel their boisterous behavior.
During this process, it’s imperative you exercise patience and dedication, and don’t punish your kitten for acting up (as we discuss in Step #5). To learn more about correctly socializing your kitten, we recommend checking out this easy-to-follow Wikihow guide, and Pam Johnson-Bennett’s cat bible, Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat–Not a Sour Puss.

Kitten Tip #1: Your kitten’s mother plays a fundamental role in its socialization, so it’s ideal if your kitten is weaned for at least two months by its mother.

  1. Train Your Kitten to Follow Your Commands

Training your cat to follow your commands will not only make your time as an owner more fun, it will also support your cat’s mental and physical development. That’s not to mention the benefits which come with bringing up a cat who is obedient and receptive to you.

Incentivisation and positive reinforcement will be your secret weapons in this step. If, for example, you want to teach your cat to sit and stay on a stool, guide and encourage your cat through the process by using food as an incentive.

Another tried and tested way to train your cat is to use a clicker in conjunction with food. Your cat will begin to associate the link between the clicking sound, positive behavior, and the promise of a reward.

Kitten Tip #2: There are many useful commands you can teach your kitten to follow, the best of which are outlined in this Reader’s Digest article.

  1. Teach Your Kitten to Use the Litter Box

This step is one of the most important – and hardest. Fortunately, it all comes down to perseverance on your end, and incentivization on your cat’s. Take the positioning of the litter box. If you want your cat to use it, you need to give them a reason to.

Choose an area which is quiet and easy for your kitten to access. Make sure it accommodates not only the litter box, but also essential items like food, water, and bedding, as well as your kitten’s favorite toys. With everything they need in one spot, they’ll start to make a habit of using the litter box.

Another effective trick is to place your kitten in its litter box every time it wakes up or finishes eating. Even more important is to do so when you notice signs that it’s ready to go to the toilet. How do you achieve such a feat? Start observing your cat as much as possible. This will help reduce accidents, and make litter box training less of a headache.

Kitten Tip #3: Not all litter is created equal! Select litter which is both comfortable and safe for your kitten. Learn more about choosing the right litter here.

  1. Play with Your Cat to Progress Their Development

Watching your kitty play with its toys is one of the greatest joys of being a cat owner. But toys play a far greater role than mere entertainment. According to The Humane Society, play gives your cat “an outlet for their energy, mental and physical stimulation, the opportunity to satisfy their instinctual hunting drive and a chance to bond with you.”

Just like other types of training, there’s a right way to play. You should tailor play to suit your cat’s particular needs, and make sure the games you play are progressing, not regressing your cat. Even the toys you select have a substantial bearing on your cat’s willingness to play – as well as how much it will get out of the play – so be sure to do your research.

Kitten Tip #4: When toy shopping, ensure you buy toys suitable for kittens, not fully grown cats.

  1. Encourage Good Behavior with Positive Reinforcement

You may have noticed that we’ve mentioned the importance of positive reinforcement in each of the above steps. The reason we can’t stress this point enough is because positive reinforcement is at the crux of training – it gives your kitten a reason to continue behaving in an ideal manner.

Positive reinforcement both helps encourage healthy behavior and curb bad behavior. This is crucial to remember when your cat acts up, as you may find yourself resorting to punishing it.

The thing is, punishing your cat does the exact opposite of what you hope to achieve! It fails to teach your cat what they’ve done wrong, increases its stress and anxiety, and may even destabilize the positive relationship you’ve worked so hard to build. Conversely, positive reinforcement demonstrates that good behavior is recognized and rewarded, and therein sets your cat up for success.

Kitten Tip #5: Familiarize yourself with using positive reinforcement by reading the highly-rated book, Naughty No More: Change Unwanted Behaviors Through Positive Reinforcement.

Final words

Training your kitten may seem a laborious task at first, but it will become second nature once you get into the swing of things. Simply follow our five steps and check out our recommended resources, and you’ll be well on your way to bringing up a loving, well behaved, and healthy cat.

Have tried any of these tips yourself? Do you have a go-to trick for training kittens? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below!

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