May 6, 2016
April Showers Bring May Meowers
Kitten season is upon us and everyone loves cute, cuddly, sweet and loving kittens. Kittens that are not properly trained or socialized can become stressed, fearful and shy adult cats. Stressed cats are more likely to display unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate urination and destructive scratching. It is much easier to prevent the unwanted behaviors than it is to “untrain” them.
Socialization: Socialized kittens are less likely to be fearful in unfamiliar situations. Positive experiences around strange people, children, sights, sounds and handling will help your adult cat better cope with changes in household situations. Prime socialization period is between 2-7 weeks but can extend to 14 weeks.
Handling: Handle feet, tail, ears and mouth. Gently lay kitten on side and on back, all with positive reinforcement. This can be helpful for future vet visits, trimming nails, brushing teeth and cleaning ears. If your kitten has medium or long hair, get him used to being brushed regularly. Reward him every time with food, play or affection.
Environmental Enrichment: Cats needs to be provided with an enriching environment. Stress and anxiety can increase the likelihood of destructive scratching. They need to be able to perform their natural behaviors. Provide your kitten with appropriate scratching surfaces. They may like cardboard, fabric, wood logs or rope material placed vertically or horizontally.
Cats love to climb and watch things from above. They are curious but still want to feel safe. Make sure your kitten has high places he can climb up onto. Place cat trees near windows for him to look out and watch the birds. Leave a shelf or a bookcase open for the kitten to jump onto and hang out. A perch mounted to an inside windowsill is the perfect spot for him to enjoy the view.
Provide your kitten with many different types of toys. Cats are natural hunters and love to chase and catch different objects. Glitter balls, the rings off milk jugs, feather toys, toilet paper rolls, pretty much anything they can chase and catch. Switch out the toys regularly so he doesn’t get bored with the same ones. If you aren’t able to play with the kitten he may also enjoy watching videos on an ipad or playing a cat game on the ipad.
Kittens need routine veterinary care every 3-4 weeks for their first 4 months and usually have no problems adjusting to their carrier. Purchase a sturdy carrier that opens from the top making it easier to get the kitten in and out of.
Keep the carrier out in a room the kitten spends time in. Put kitten’s toys and blankets in carrier with door open so he can go in and out at will.
Carry the kitten around in the carrier in the house periodically or take for short rides in the car.
Do not use the carrier for anything the kitten perceives as frightening or scary. The goal is for the kitten to associate his carrier with positive experiences.
Remember to do all of these things on a regular basis. As the kitten ages it is important for him to continue having positive experiences to ensure a happy, stress free adulthood.
Contributed by Anna Preiner, CVT