Although cats tend to have shorter attention spans than dogs, it is still possible to train them and, like all young animals, it is better to train cats while they are still young to establish good, lifelong habits.
You can teach your kitten a variety of behaviours, from litter training your kitten to teaching them how to use a scratching post, and these are best learnt with positive reinforcement. You should never shout at your kitten if he or she does something you don’t like, or rub their face in their mess if they do it in the wrong place, as it will do more harm than good. They will learn to associate you with something scary rather than understanding it as a punishment, which means they will just avoid you when repeating that behaviour in the future.
Use positive reinforcement to encourage their good behaviours. Give your kitten treats and praise after they have finished going to the toilet in their litter tray or after they have used the scratching post.
Little but often
It’s possible to train your kitten to follow simple commands, like “come” or “stay”, but some cats can get bored quickly. Rather than long training sessions, do short sessions of about 5 minutes, using positive reinforcement by rewarding them with treats, verbal praise or fuss. Try not to use their name while teaching them a new command as that may confuse them when you use their name in other scenarios, and avoid training them after they have eaten, as they won’t want treats on a full stomach.
Socialise them early
Cats are not social animals so often do not enjoy being kept with others. Nevertheless, many households choose to have multiple cats and other pets. It is best to get your cat used to other animals as early as possible; introduce them slowly, firstly by familiarising them with items that smell of the other animal in a positive setting. You can then slowly build up their exposure to each other in a calm environment.
Kittens love to play, and anything is fair game as a toy. Actively encourage them to play with their own toys, rather than your belongings, by playing with them and praising them for choosing their toys over other items. Avoid playing games where you use your hands and feet as toys – cats use their claws and teeth to play, as they would if they were hunting, and it encourages bad behaviours that they may continue when you don’t want them to.
When cats smell catnip, they cannot help but to bring themselves closer to it, rub themselves on it and, crucially, get it under their claws. Placing it on and around the scratching post may encourage them to use their post rather than the furniture by providing them with a preferred alternative. You can further reinforce this behaviour with a treat or praise. If catnip doesn’t work for your kitty, try exploring other plants and scents to find what they like instead.
Furthermore, while your kitty might like catnip, most tend to not be too fond of mint, so you can use mint leaves or mint oil as a natural deterrent against your furniture or the parts of your house you want your kitten to keep away from.