How To Discipline Kittens

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

24 April 2019

We often need to remind ourselves that kittens aren’t just cute — they’re babies as well, and still need to figure out how the world works. That is why, in some cases, it’s important to teach them correct and acceptable behaviour. This can include anything from not using the couch as a scratching post to not playing to violently.
Don’t expect to “train” your kitten
Cats aren’t dogs, and shouldn’t be trained or taught in the same manner. Kittens will probably just laugh at you if you try to get them to “sit” or “stay”. If you think you are completely out of your depth, you can always call in an expert.
The biggest mistake of them all
What does stay the same whether it’s a puppy or a kitten is that they must never be physically hurt, shook, or restrained. Not only will they not associate their previous behaviour (for instance playing too hard) with their physical punishment, but you will also break your bond with them by hurting them.
Be consistent
This is especially true when it comes to playing and teaching your kitten how “hard” they are allowed to bite and scratch at you while playing. After all, it’s only fun to play until some nails are sunk into your skin!
By saying a stern “ouch” and slowly removing your hand while keeping it still, you will show your kitten that biting that hard/using their nails is not acceptable and means the end of playtime. By doing this you can teach a cat to play completely without using their claws (unless they are chasing that dastardly fish on the string, of course!). By also ignoring them, you don’t give them the positive reinforcement that they want to get from you.
You should also be consistent in where they are allowed to go and where they are not allowed. This is especially important in the kitchen where there are so many dangers for a kitten if they get onto the counters. If your kitten is allowed a bookcase, for example, make sure that there are no knick-knacks that they can knock off and break or toxic plants that they can end up chewing on.
Don’t rub their nose in it
Another very important thing you should never do is to rub your cat’s nose in an “accident”. There can be various reasons why they didn’t use their litter box — from the litter box being dirty, to a urinary tract infection, to being stressed and anxious.
The right way of doing it
The best way of teaching your kitten good behaviour is by reinforcing their good behaviour, as cats don’t learn from punishment, but from praise. If you reward your kitten during the good behaviour, they’ll make the connection between their behaviour and the positive reinforcement.
You should also consider a health issue if your kitten is suddenly acting up or acting differently. They may have a urinary tract infection like stated above or they may be struggling with constipation. They may even be acting out because of a thunderstorm or fireworks.
If their routine suddenly changed you may also see a difference in how they act while they get used to the new routine.
An orphaned or feral kitten that you’ve adopted — depending on their age — may also not yet have been socialised properly. If you have hand-reared the kitten(s) from a very young age, you may well have to spend more time teaching them to use the litter box and scratching post, for example.
In the end, what you need most of, is time and patience to make sure that you raise a healthy and happy kitten into a healthy and happy cat.
You are now probably left with one last question:
How to keep a kitten off your laptop, book or papers
If only we knew…

Photo by Dan Wayman on Unsplash


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