Pouncing on Legs
Some kittens like to pounce on legs or toes when people walk by them. This is part of kittens’ normal predatory play drive, but can still be very annoying. Some kittens will do this to let you know they want to be played with. Either way, you do not want to reward this behaviour with your attention. Yelling at her or caressing her is still attention and, to a large extent, both are exactly what she wants—your attention.
This is one way the kitten can tell you she needs some interactive playtime with you or with some toys. Kittens love to pounce on things; it is their predatory play drive in action. Toys such as a laser light she can chase around the room and then pounce on when it is hovering in one spot allows her to complete her predatory play drive. If she does not receive this kind of playtime, you are leaving it up to her to find something to pounce on, such as your legs. Contrary to popular belief, kittens do need interactive time with their families. They do not enjoy being left alone all the time. They need love, socialization, and playtime with all family members.
Here are some ways you can address the pouncing behaviour:
- Make a loud noise to startle her (e.g., clap, snap, shake a plastic bottle with coins in it, or make a loud sound such as saying the word “Ouch” in a loud voice) and walk away from the kitten.
- Catch the kitten letting you walk by her and not pouncing on you and mark and reward her gentle behaviour with a nice long pet, treats, or your attention.
- When you can see that the kitten is getting ready to pounce on you, quickly get up and walk out of the room while completely ignoring her. Later, when she allows you to walk by without pouncing, give her lots of love and special attention. This is a perfect time to play with her, using a toy she can pounce on to get her predatory needs met while she is being a good girl.
- Use treats, circular touches, or simply your attention as the reward for good behaviour.
- Enrich the kitten’s environment by offering a more interesting variety of toys to stimulate her mentally.
- If she is bored, she might think your legs are the only toys available to her.
- Exchange the kitten’s toys frequently. Offer one toy at a time for a few days and then put that toy away and offer her another toy. When you exchange her toys, they will stay interesting to her. If toys are all left out all the time, she will become bored with all of them.
- In many cases, when kittens offer inappropriate behaviours, it is because they are bored.
Bathing your Kitten
Giving your kitten a bath while she is young will help her feel more comfortable with baths in the future. Al-though cats usually groom themselves, sometimes—depending on how long their hair is—they will need a bath occasionally. Getting her used to baths now will make the experience easier for her in the future.
Be sure to use shampoos and conditioners specifically made for kittens.
Be sure to protect your kitten’s ears from getting water in them. You will also want to be careful not to get soap in her eyes.
Depending on where you choose to bathe her, be sure to introduce the water slowly. The kitchen sink works well with kittens and with adult cats if they are not too big. Turn the water on gently, opposite from the side of the sink where the kitten is sitting.
This will allow her time to get used to the sound of the water. While slowly running the water out of the faucet, put a handful of water over her back to give her a chance to experience the feel of the water on her coat. If she squirms or tries to run away, stop putting water on her but keep the water running on the other side of the sink. Do some touches on her face with your index or middle finger. Start on her forehead and do tiny circles, moving her skin around one and a quarter times in one spot. Work your way down to the top of her nose and just do a few slow circular touches until she calms down.
This will calm down most cats. Once she has calmed down, again try putting a handful of water on her back. Repeat this a few times until she becomes comfortable and is not struggling to get away. If after a few tries she is still fighting you, do a few more touches on her forehead, put her in a towel and gently rub her for a minute or so, and put her on the floor. For today, bath time is over. Practice this a few days in a row until she becomes comfortable with the water on her back.
It is very important that you, rather than the kitten, decide when she leaves. If you let her go when she wants to, she will train you to do things her way. This is an opportunity to let her know you are here to understand and help her, but events will happen when you say they will, and not when she demands.
If the kitten is comfortable with the handful of water on her back, then you can move the nozzle from the sink over to her and let it run on her coat gently. Let her get used to the feel of the water. Once she is willing to hold still for a few seconds, you can begin her bath.
For the first actual bath, do not use much soap. The first bath is more of an opportunity for her to get comfortable with being bathed. The following day you can give her a real bath, but do not do too much too quickly. You want her to get used to baths so she will not fight you in the future.
Introducing your Kitten to other Pets
Around the third or fourth day after you bring your kitten home and she is comfortable with the first room you gave her, put the kitten into her carrier and bring her into the family room or other room where your family spends time together. If you have more than one pet, introduce the other pets to the kitten while she is still in her carrier, one at a time. Let one pet out to sniff and look at the new family member.
Stay with your pets and supervise their behaviour. At first, most kittens will exhibit anxious behaviour with the new animal. Give both animals time to look at and watch each other. If after a half hour or so the kitten is still in the back of her carrier, take her back into the original room, where she is already comfortable.
If the other pet is a dog and making noises (for example, barking) toward the kitten, ask him to settle down and be quiet. When he does, mark and reward his quiet behaviour.
Kittens can be somewhat skittish, especially when they have not had socialisation opportunities. Loud noises, such as hearing a dog bark for the first time, can be frightening to your kitten. Dogs do bark at strangers, especially if they have not had socialisation opportunities with cats prior to the new kitten. Your dog may get excited when meeting this new friend, and he could scare the kitten unintentionally.
Do not scold your dog for barking; ask for quiet instead. If you would like information on how to train your dog to be quiet on cue, please let us know.
If your dog can settle down, then let the two animals look at and smell each other while the kitten is in her carrier until your dog gets bored with the new kitten and lies down or walks away.
If your kitten is being introduced to an older cat in your home, do the same thing. Let the resident cat check out the kitten, if she will, and make sure to give the older cat lots of attention. In many cases, the resident cat will snub the new kitten or hiss at her. This is because another feline has infiltrated her territory. Within a few weeks, this snubbing and hissing behaviour generally dwindles and eventually ceases. In some cases, however, this behaviour lessens but still continues. It may help to hold your older cat and give her lots of additional attention.
This should help to stop the jealousy issues some cats have when a new kitten is brought into the home. Sometimes your older cat will never accept the new kitten. Your older cat will, however, learn to tolerate the new kitten, even if she does not like her. Give your resident cat lots of attention to reassure her she is still top cat in the house.
For the first encounter with the other pet(s), five to ten minutes is enough time together for introductions. Depending on how the animals react to one another, only one minute may be enough time. Watch the interaction, and if either pet becomes too aroused or concerned, put the kitten back in her room and close the door. You can try the introductions again later that day or the next. If the first introduction went well, repeat the exercise a few more times the first day.
The next step is to bring your kitten into the room with the other animal present and open the door to her carrier. Make sure there are places for your kitten to hide if she feels threatened. Again, allow only one resident pet to meet her at any given time. Supervise both of them closely. The kitten should be allowed to come out of hiding in her own time. This may take a while, so you will need some patience.
Remember to not scold or reprimand your dog for barking. Being escorted out of the room and not being able to stay with you is reprimand enough. Repeat this introduction exercise with all family pets, one at a time, until they begin to get comfortable with one another. In time, many will become great friends and even share mealtimes together. Once all the pets have had many opportunities to check out their new family member, it is time to allow more than one resident pet at a time with the kitten in the room.
At first, with two resident pets checking her out, the kitten will most likely be afraid and hide. If the other two pets are dogs, ask them to be quiet and settle down. If the dogs do not quiet down, take them out of the room. Repeat this exercise later in the day until the dogs can be quiet when they are with the kitten.
When introducing your kitten to other resident cats, the same supervision is needed. Again, cats can be very territorial animals. Keep this in mind because your other cats may snub and/or terrorise your new kitten. If you can let them work this out on their own, it will be easier for both of them. However, if you feel one animal is in danger, your intervention may be necessary.
Depending on the animals’ reactions to each other, the introductions can take a few hours or as long as a few weeks. This is the most important time for all the animals. They will all need time to adjust to each other, and that time should be given.
When introducing any other animal, follow the same set of guidelines. When raised together, many animals can learn to be friendly with one another. However, it is important to note that some animals may not get along. For example, if you have a pet bird, you should not leave your bird and your kitten together unsupervised. Cats are predatory animals and instinctively they will most likely try to eat your bird. However, sometimes even the most unusual relationships can be formed for a lifelong friendship.
Introducing your Kitten to your Home
When you first bring your kitten home, you need to take steps to make the adjustment easier on both you and your kitten. A new place is scary for your kitten, so remember to take each step slowly and work at your kitten’s pace.
Whether your home houses other animals or not, you should introduce your kitten to one room at first, then add another, and so on.
The same holds true for new people and objects. Introducing a kitten to new environments and people is a process that should be done gradually.
When bringing your kitten into your home for the first time, she should be in a cat carrier. Before you bring her into her room, you should kitten-proof it; do not leave small objects lying around.
Cats are very curious animals, and if there are small objects around for the kitten to play with or chew on, in many cases she will. Anything that is in the room that dangles or hangs should also be adjusted so the kitten cannot reach it. In addition, set the room up with a litter box, food, water, and one or two toys to investigate. Bring her into the room while still in her carrier. For now, the door to the carrier should remain closed for about a half hour. At this point, you simply leave your kitten alone. Any family member who wants to stay with her can, but they must speak softly to the kitten and sit still.
In about a half hour, you should check on your kitten. If she is meowing or near the front of her carrier asking to be let out, you can do so in this one room. Make sure someone sits with her quietly and gives her the time and space she needs to be comfortable with her new surroundings.
Open the door to the carrier and let her come out on her own. Keep an eye on her but do not interact with her unless she initiates it by coming over to you.
Make sure you keep the door to the room shut; once she decides to come out of the carrier, she may enjoy exploring her new environment or try to hide somewhere you cannot reach her.
Over the next few days, leave the kitten in her new room and make frequent visits to play and pet her if she will allow it. Give her time to investigate you and come to you on her own. Make sure the room you leave her in has been kitten-proofed so she cannot get hurt or in trouble.
When your kitten begins to cry when you leave her alone, it is time to open the door of the room to which she has been confined. Make sure other doors throughout your home are closed. You will want to give her time to get used to different areas in your home slowly. Let her come out of the room on her own.
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