From almost as soon as it can walk without its mum’s help, a kitten will approach every new situation with the curiosity and confidence that cats have become so famous for!
Kittens are at their least fearful when they are aged between three and seven weeks. This is when they are more accepting of change and experience. They soon become more cautious, so you need to get to know your new cat as soon as possible – ideally when he or she is between eight and 13 weeks old, though much depends on the breed and the breeder.
To get you started, here are some tips to help you with the cat training that will enable your kitten to develop:
- Invite as many friends as possible to be introduced to your kitten – different genders, ages, heights, facial complexions, hair colours and more!
- Get children to meet your kitten and to take care around your little fluff ball.
- If you know someone with a cat-friendly dog, invite them to bring their pet to meet your kitten.
- Get your kitten used to car travel by taking it on short trips. To help offer a special treat when you return home so they see this as a reward.
How to start cat training
With your cat aware of basic social skills, you can start training properly. But before you start, it’s a good idea to check your pet doesn’t have any underlying medical conditions that may cause problems during training, for example joint or hearing problems. Your vet can help with this.
Once training begins, emphasise whatever spoken cue you use by speaking clearly, confidently, and reinforcing the cat’s positive actions with praise – for example “sit” and then “good, sit”.
Food-based rewards help reinforce training. Another useful device can be a “clicker” or soft sounding bell when you offer a treat as this will helps them associate the sound with the reward. This means in the future the cat should perform a particular task just hearing the sound.
It’s best to train before mealtimes, so the food reward is more enticing than it would be on a full tummy. But beware a hungry cat can lose patience and concentration!
Try as best as you can to eliminate background noise – switch off the TV or radio – to aid concentration. And keep sessions short so you and the cat don’t become tired or bored. Sessions of maximum 15 minutes every day work well.
Most importantly, keep training consistent, with the same trainer, cues, rewards and signals. And only move on when your cat has mastered each skill. Be patient: training takes time!