Cat Manners

Reprinted from with permission of Dr. Ian Dunbar

Before you get a new kitten or adopt an adult cat, make sure you complete your education about kitty education. If you are already living with an untrained cat with existing problems, simply designate today as the first day at Kitty College for both of you. Kitten training techniques work perfectly well with adult cats.

Adopting a New Kitten

Check that the kitten was raised indoors, around human companionship and influence. Ask the breeder (or shelter) how many strangers, especially including men and children, have handled and gentled the kittens. Spend at least an hour observing, playing with, and hugging and handling (restraining and examining), your prospective kitten.

At eight weeks of age, kitten activity recycles every 40 minutes so. To get a representative feel for your kitten's overall demeanor, make sure that you observe her while she sleeps, when she plays, and when she is wild. Check that the kitten already uses a litter box and plays with her scratching post.

Adopting an Adult Cat

Choosing an adult cat is a very personal choice: choose the one that likes all family members best, and choose the one you all like best. The secret to adopting the perfect cat is patience, patience, patience, and selection, selection, selection. The perfect cat is waiting for you somewhere, and so take your time to choose with your head as well as your heart.

Teaching Household Manners

The first week your kitten or cat spends in your home is the most important week of her life. From the very first day, start an error-less house training and scratching post training program so that you prevent any house soiling and destructive clawing or chewing problems.

When you are not at home, leave your cat in a long-term confinement area (cat playroom), which has a comfortable bed, fresh water, a litter box, and a scratching post with several cat toys and chew toys (stuffed with food) hanging from the top. Long-term confinement prevents mistakes around the house and maximizes the likelihood your cat will learn to use her toilet and learn to play with her toys and scratching post.

When you are at home but cannot pay full attention to your cat, confine her to a small, short-term confinement area (cat carrying crate) with a couple of stuffed chew toys and dangly cat toys. Confining your cat prevents any mistakes around the house, maximizes the likelihood she will learn to play with her toys, and allows you to predict when she would like to relieve herself.

Knowing when your cat wants to go makes litter box training easy, because all you have to do is show her where to go and reward her for going. Closely confining a cat temporarily inhibits elimination. Give her hourly access to the litter box, and she will promptly pee (and sometimes poop). Then voice gentle appreciation and give her three liver treats as a reward.

Confinement is a temporary management and training measure. Once your cat has learned where to eliminate and what to scratch, she may enjoy full-run of your house for the rest of her life.

Until she is trained, do not feed your cat from a food bowl. Set aside some kibble to use for safety training, and stuff some of her food into hollow Kong chew toys with the odd piece of freeze-dried liver. Moisten dry kibble, squish it into the Kong cavity, and place it in the freezer overnight.

In the morning suspend the stuffed Kongs from the top of her scratching post. Your cat will spend a long time eating, and in the process will be automatically rewarded for playing with her toys and scratching post.

If you would eventually like your cat to eliminate outdoors, use soil in her litter box instead of commercial litter. Your kitty cat will quickly develop strong substrate and olfactory preferences for eliminating on soil and will naturally want to eliminate outside.

Safety Training

When cats are scared, they run and hide, sometimes remaining in hiding for several days. Indoor cats are especially scared if they escape outdoors (usually when strangers visit the house). Whether you intend your cat to be allowed outdoors or not, safety training is essential. At the very least you should teach your cat to come when called. The process is simple.