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TRAINING YOUR CAT


TRAINING YOUR CAT
Most kittens are very easy to litter train and may already have learned by watching their mother by the time you get them home. If not, training your cat is a rewarding experience for you both.

House training

Good news! Naturally, cats are very clean animals. Most kittens are very easy to litter train, and are likely to have already learned the basics by the time you get them home. However, a new environment for a little kitten can be daunting and confusing. Follow these tips which to help make sure your new kitten is using their litter tray like an expert in no time!

What do you need for litter training?
  • Kitten sized litter tray, small enough for them to get in it and big enough to do the business
  • Cat litter. At first use the same type of litter your kitten is used to from its previous home, this will help them adjust quickly
  • A quiet place to put the litter tray in. This will help your kitten feel safe

How do you litter train your kitten?

Show the kitten where the litter tray is by placing them in it and letting them have a sniff and a scratch around. Put your kitten in the tray regularly, particularly after meals or when they wake up.It’s important to make sure the tray is kept clean at all times. Cats are very clean animals and will refuse to use their tray if it is dirty. However, using strong chemicals or detergents will also deter the cat.

Never punish your kitten if they have an accident outside the tray. Don’t rub their nose in it or smack them. If you catch them in the act, simply say ‘no’ in a firm voice and then pop them into the tray and praise them while they’re in there. The kitten will soon associate their litter tray with praise and will want to go in there. A piece of kibble or a small treat as a reward will help to associate litter training as positivity.

Scratching

Destructive scratching can be a problem with cats but they’re just exhibiting their natural instincts. Cats usually scratch for one of four main reasons:

  • Marking their territory – Scratching is a territorial instinct to mark their turf. Not only do they leave visible claw marks but cat’s paws also have scent glands that, in the wild, would tell other cats that this was their territory
  • Sharpen their claws – Cats use scratching as a way to ‘sharpen’ their claws as it removes the dead outer layer
  • Exercise – Scratching helps to keep your kitty in shape by stretching the muscles in their front quarters
  • Pleasure – They just like doing it, it feels nice for them
How can I stop my cat from scratching?

You’ll never be able to stop a cat from doing something they enjoy and which is a natural instinct to them. What you can do however, is to stop them scratching and destroying your house!

Firstly, buy a scratching post. Make sure the post you pick is tall enough so that your cat can fully extend their body and ensure it’s really sturdy so it doesn’t fall over on top of your kitty when it’s being used. Sisal scratching posts, made from carpet-like material, are ideal as your cat can shred it to pieces with great satisfaction. Studies have shown most cats prefer to mark their territory with vertical shredding marks, sisal textile provides the perfect surface for this behaviour.

Encourage your cat to use the post by enticing them with attention and things they like. For example, leave a few cat biscuits near the post, or play with them near it. Ensure you reward your cat when they use the post, they’ll then associate the post with treats and affection and will be more inclined to use it. Many cats love to scratch when they first wake up in the morning so it might be an idea to have one in the room they sleep in.

At first you may find that your kitty is reluctant to give up their old favourite scratching places. Try and discourage them by covering the area with either double sided tape or tin foil as cats don’t like the feel of them. You can buy all sorts of different pet odour removers from supermarkets or pet shops or you could use citrus scented sprays as cats don’t like the smell,

If all else fails and your kitty still insists on scratching the furniture, try squirting them with a water spray or clapping your hands loudly and saying ‘no’ in a firm voice. However, to be effective, you have to do this when you catch them in the act so they associate scratching that piece of furniture with getting wet or that sharp noise.

Biting

Cats are predators and have a natural hunting instinct. Even though your cat doesn’t have to hunt for food, their natural instinct is to do and this won’t go away. It’s perfectly normal for cats to practice their hunting skills. Therefore, you need to make sure you’re providing a suitable outlet for this behaviour.

A couple of play sessions each day will give your cat opportunity to get rid of a little bit of energy and to practice their hunting skills. There are loads of toys to choose from on the market. Anything involving fluff, wands with a fish or mouse attached to the end, strings and laser pens all go down well. Drag the toy in front of your cat, alternating between slow pulls and sudden jerks and let him/her stalk and pounce on the toy instead of you.

If your cat becomes over-excited, tone down the play session a little. If he/she bites you, immediately say “OUCH” loudly, walk away and ignore them. Stopping a fun play session is a great way to teach your cat that rough behaviour and biting you is not acceptable.

Biting while being stroked

Its quite common for your cat to be sat on your lap purring away as you stroke them and then next minute turn around and bite you. While this can be quite confusing for you, it’s simply their way of telling you that they’ve had enough. You may think that your cat has bitten you without any warning but if you watch your cat when you’re stroking them, you’ll get to pick up on the warning signs.

Watch your cat’s body language. When they’ve had enough of being stroked, they will begin to flick their tail, turn and look at your hand and their ears may flatten. If your cat does this, just stop stroking. This is them telling you in the nicest way they can that they’ve had enough. If you ignore this and continue stroking then you may get bitten. That’s them telling you in no uncertain terms to stop it. Not all cats bite when they have had enough, some of them will simply move away from you and settle down somewhere quiet. But if your cat does, then keep an eye out for the warning signs and stop when you see them.

If you miss the warnings and your cat does bite you, say “OUCH” loudly and keep your hand still. This will make them realise that biting isn’t acceptable and keeping your hand still should stop them digging their teeth into you.

Spraying

Firstly, spraying should not be confused with urinating as they’re different. Spraying is normal, natural behaviour for marking territory and is nothing to do with them just having a wee on the carpet or missing their litter tray. Spraying will normally be up a wall, rather than on the floor.

Cats are very territorial animals and if they feel threatened by someone or something then it’s a natural instinct for them to redefine their territory. Spraying mainly occurs in cats that haven’t been neutered or spayed or in families where there is more than one cat. However, even cats that have been neutered/spayed can still spray but it is much less common.

How can I stop my cat spraying?
  • Make sure there are no medical reasons: Take your cat along to the vet for an examination, just to check there are no underlying medical problems that are causing them to spray.
  • Get your cat neutered or spayed: Whilst occasionally some cats can continue to spray after being neutered or spayed, it’s not very common.
  • More than one cat? Try and make them friends: If you have more than one cat, try and foster some kind of friendly relationship between the two of them. Play with them together, treat them equally, try and get them to eat together. The aim is to try and make them see they’re not in competition with each other and so reduce their need for spraying to mark their territory.
  • Reduce anxiety: Are other cats loitering in the garden or spraying the exterior of your house? Is there a new baby or adult in the house? Have you recently moved house? Stress and anxiety brought on by changes can cause your cat to spray. If there are changes within the home, feed kitty at the same time every day, in the same place and keep their bed and litter tray in the same place at all times. If they can see other cats in the garden, try and keep the blinds or curtains closed.
  • Use a repellent: Stick tin foil, a plastic carrier bag or double sided tape on the floor near to where your cat is spraying. They don’t like the feel under their paws and won’t stand on it. Clean the soiled area thoroughly with 1 part white distilled vinegar and 2 parts water. Once you’ve cleaned the area, try using a citrus scented spray as cats really don’t like the smell.

Training tips

The main reason cats or kittens won’t use a litter tray is due to cleanliness. Cats are naturally very clean animals and will not relish using a dirty litter tray. Clean out old litter on a regular basis to see if this helps.

If your kitten is having difficulty adjusting to the litter tray, they may not like the type of litter you have chosen. This could be due to the smell or texture.Try experimenting with different types of litter, or return to the previous type of litter if you have recently changed.

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Identifying behaviours

Socialisation

Kittens get their social skills from their mum. This is why kitten and mum should always stay together for the first 8 weeks. It’s also really important to make sure your cat gets plenty of human contact throughout its life.

When you bring your new kitten home, use the below list to help socialise them and get them settled in. The younger they’re introduced to these things, the better!

Travel & location
  • Car journey in a carry case
  • A trip to the vets
People
  • Children under 5
  • Children under 10
  • Someone with an umbrella
  • Someone with a pushchair or pram
Inside the house
  • Television and music
  • Washing machine and tumble dryer
  • Hair dryer
  • Visitors coming and going
  • Vacuum cleaner (this is loud, cumbersome and moving so can be very frightening for your cat. Make sure to be careful and introduce this once they’re settled in)

If you’re bringing an adult cat into your home, it’s still important to socialise them. Cats should have plenty of human contact throughout their lives, and if they haven’t when they’re young, you should start now.

The below list has some examples of the kind of things you can introduce your cat to, to help them settle into their new home:

Travel & location
  • Car journey in a carry case
  • A trip to the vets
People
  • Children under 5
  • Children under 10
  • Someone with an umbrella
  • Someone with a pushchair or pram
Inside the house
  • Television and music
  • Washing machine and tumble dryer
  • Hair dryer
  • Visitors coming and going
  • Vacuum cleaner (this can be very frightening to your cat as it’s loud, cumbersome and moving. Only introduce this once they’ve settled in)

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