Jumping onto Counters and Tables
Kittens are very curious animals. When something on a table looks interesting to them, they will want to go see what it is. These objects can include photo frames, candles, coasters, vases, or anything new to the kitten. For a kitten, all of these objects are possible play toys. Kittens like to jump up onto surfaces; this is part of their play drive, and an inherent instinct in kittens.
Most kittens enjoy keeping an eye on their territory from a high point in a room. One of the easiest ways to address this behaviour is to use a cat tree or climber that allows your kitten to find a vantage point higher than the countertop so she can be above her territory.
Putting a little catnip on the tree will entice her to climb the tree to the highest vantage point. If higher than your countertops, she will develop a preference for the tree. Place the cat tree in a location where she can see inside and outside if possible.
Some ways you can interrupt the counter and table surfing behaviour are listed here:
- Make a loud noise, such as a clap or a snap.
- Use a spray water bottle. Spray the kitten when she jumps up. Make sure the kitten associates the spray with the act of jumping up and does not associate it with you. (Spray and then hide the bottle.)
- Remove any items your kitten is intrigued with from countertops or tables, and heavier items that are not easily knocked over to decorate countertops.
- Kitten-proof your home. Put items away so the kitten does not have anything to knock over.
- Offer the kitten a cat tree and place it by a window. Put the cat tree in a location that gives her an excellent high view of her territory. Rubbing a little catnip on the tree will pique her curiosity and she will investigate it. Soon she will begin marking it to make the tree her very own by rubbing on it, scratching it, and laying on it.
- Keep fragile items in a place the kitten cannot reach.
- If the kitten knocks items over only when left alone, take short trips out of the house. When you return, if she has not knocked items over, give her lots of attention and tell her what a good kitty she is. Gradually extend the length of time you leave her alone, ignoring her when she has knocked items over and giving her lots of attention and praise when she does not.
- Offer the kitten a different toy to play with and to entertain herself with when you are leaving the house. Toys filled with treats are great fun and stimulate kittens. Figuring out how to get the treats out of the toy is both entertaining and stimulating. When your kitten has toys that stimulate and entertain her, she has less reason to look for items in your home to knock over.
- When the kitten knocks items over when you are home, you can use a spray bottle and spray her, but only if you can catch her in the act of knocking items over. Or you can snub her and walk away. Do not give her any attention for at least 10 minutes. When using a spray bottle, it is important that the kitten is conditioned to the spray being bad and does not associate it with you, so hide the bottle the second after you spray her.
- If you have decorative items you want to leave out, consider getting some glue dots to stick under your decorative items to keep them in place even if she does try to knock them over.
- It is a good idea to consider heavier items for decoration purposes. The heavier the items are, the more difficult it will be for her to knock them over.
- Spend time interacting with your kitten. She needs and enjoys your attention.
- Provide play periods with family members; the kitten needs her locomotive and predatory play drive needs met.
Knocking Things Over
A kitten will sooner or later knock over and break something of value. In most cases, this is not an accident. Some kittens will actually stretch out their front paws to knock things over. It may seem like a strange thing to do; however, this is due to the kitten’s curiosity and play drive. Kittens when left alone for extended periods of time will look for something to entertain themselves.
One of the things they may do is knock things over. This is not done out of spite; it is the result of the kitten being bored. Kittens do enjoy company, and when left alone for extended periods of time, they simply get bored.
Here are some suggestions for addressing this behaviour:
Kittens do not usually have to be trained to use a litter box once they know where it is and, of course, if it is in a convenient yet somewhat private location. However, there are some cases in which a kitten will not use the litter box. If the kitten is eliminating inappropriately, there is probably a preference problem. In these cases, some of the tips given below may help to determine the kitten’s preferences. Wait a week or two between each change to allow the kitten to make a choice and show her preference.
You can try using a different litter. Some kittens prefer litters that clump because they are softer. When trying out a new litter, it is important that you get another litter box identical to the one you already have. Put the same amount of the current litter in one box and the new litter in the other box. Let the kitten make her own decision. Try this for two weeks before making a final decision on which litter your kitten prefers.
Try changing the amount of litter you put in the box. Some kittens prefer a lot of litter (four to six inches), and others prefer little to none. Try adjusting the level of litter over a week or two. Start off with just an inch or so of litter in one box and no litter in another. Over the next week, gradually increase the amount of litter you put in her box.
If you have more than one cat, get separate litter boxes for each plus one extra. Cats often do not like sharing their litter boxes.
You can also try to slowly change the box’s location, little by little. It should be placed somewhere that is easily accessible for your kitten, offers escape routes, and is quiet and private because cats do enjoy their privacy.
Make sure to clean the litter box on a regular basis. Kittens do not like dirty litter boxes or dirty litter. Scoop the box out a few times a day and wash the litter box at least once a month. If urine or faeces gets stuck to the box, the box should be washed immediately.
Check whether the litter box is large enough for your cat. Many commercial litter boxes are not big enough for many cats. If you think this could be a concern, consider a larger plastic container for the cat to eliminate in. A good general rule for litter box size is three times the length of your cat from nose to tail. Plastic storage boxes that are designed to go under a bed make excellent litter boxes. They are usually long enough for most cats and low enough for easy entry and exit.
Be sure the litter box offers an easy entrance and exit for your cat. If it does not, you may want to open up the side further or consider a new box.
When you first bring your kitten home, you should keep her in one room. This room should contain her litter box. As you gradually introduce your kitten to more areas of your house, the litter box can be moved with her. When she has access to the full house, you can move the litter box slowly, a foot or so every day until it has reached its new location.
If you have a large home, consider getting multiple litter boxes. Again, place these in areas where they are easily accessible and provide privacy and escape routes.
You can also begin to reward your kitten’s good behaviour! Pay close attention to your kitten. When she uses her litter box, give her a treat! This may help her want to use her box more frequently and stop the inappropriate elimination.
Any recent changes in lifestyle or home surroundings may cause your cat to suddenly stop using her litter box as well. Cats are very sensitive to any sort of change, and this may be the root of the problem. Sometimes simply moving furniture around is enough of a disturbance for a kitten to stop using her litter box.
If you have moved furniture around, make sure your kitten knows where her litter box is and give her lots of assurance that everything is okay. This is, in fact, a great time to introduce a new litter box and reward her when she does use her new litter box.
Playing Safely with your Kitten
Learning to play safely with your kitten entails paying close attention to what you are doing as a kitten parent. Cats have a tendency to be full of energy one minute and napping the next. Think of the term “catnap.” We use this to describe a short and quick nap. The reason it is called catnap is because cats do this repeatedly throughout the day.
When your new kitten has overcome her initial fear of being in her new home, it is important for you to understand that she will start displaying her curiosity through energetic exploring. To help her display this energy in a positive way, you need to play with her. It is your job to help her get her mental and physical exercise needs met.
Kittens basically have two modes of play: predatory and locomotive. Predatory play includes behaviours such as pouncing, grabbing, chasing, and throwing things in the air. Locomotive play includes behaviours such as running, climbing, leaping, and finding places the kitten can go into and come out of quickly, such as a paper bag or a box.
To play safely with your kitten, give her toys that stimulate both modes of play. For predatory play, balls, fake mice (especially those that make noise), and laser pointers are excellent suggestions. Keep in mind, however, that you do not want to get any objects small enough that your kitten can swallow them. Objects with feathers, although fun for your cat, will end up in pieces around your house. Kittens enjoy tinsel toys too, but they should be offered only during supervised playtime.
For locomotive play, one suggestion is to get a cat climber. These come in many different sizes and types. They can be used not only as a place to climb and run through but also as a scratching post or a place to sleep. You can also have a cat tree for your kitten to climb on, scratch, and lay down on so she can oversee her territory.
Social play is great for your kitten, too. However, never use your feet or hands as play objects with a cat. Your kitten cannot tell the difference between your appendages and his toy mouse if both are being presented as toys! Social play is interaction between your kitten and people or other animals within the household. This type of play is important not only for getting along with the family members, but also if you want your kitten to be comfortable around guests in your house.
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