Well behaved cats may seem to be the ultimate oxymoron for those of us who live with them. I once read a sign that said, “Cats don’t have people, they have staff.” Cats can be well behaved if you start when they are kittens and put in some extra effort in the beginning, to save pain and suffering later. You know what I mean. Cats on kitchen counters and scratching the furniture is not my idea of peaceful petdom.
Christopher and Eloise are the two kittens who have joined my mother after her dog Chester died. Having lived with cats my entire adult life, I have this advice for her to help the little rogues grow into pleasant companions.
Start them in their own safe room.
I read this advice online, and it has tested out well. When you bring home your kitten or kittens, establish a room that is contained and free of hazards. Whenever you can’t supervise your feline, keep it in the safe room. It is not cruel and it does not bother them, if most of the time they are with you. What this accomplishes is that they never get to misbehave and get away with it, because you are always watching them and able to interrupt their behavior. Eventually they will come to understand that misbehaving simply doesn’t happen.
This is how elephants are trained. The baby elephant is tied to a tree, and while it is small, it can’t break the rope. It comes to understand that escape is impossible. The adult elephant will stand next to a small tree with only a flimsy rope to hold it, because it will not even try to escape.
Leaving your cat unsupervised for even a short time gives it a chance to learn that bad behavior can be successfully accomplished. This is doom.
Give them everything they need.
Cats need to climb, get inside things, and scratch. If you don’t want to be fishing your kitten out of the kitchen cupboard or the bathroom cabinets, make sure to provide a kitty condo. A scratching post is also essential equipment. If the litter box is not kept clean, kitty will look for another place. If you have the things your cat needs, then you can in all fairness deny it the privilege of scratching the furniture or leaving you a present in the corner.
When your cat scratches the wrong place, gets on the wrong surface, or chooses an inappropriate alternative to the litter box, interrupt the behavior in a way that is unpleasant but does not harm your cat.
The water spray bottle is your best friend.
Nothing is faster or more effective. One squirt and your cat will flee the other direction with lightning speed. Keep the bottle handy until the behavior you don’t like is extinguished.
There is no need to ever strike or yell at your cat. The squirt bottle is effective and preserves your good relationship. You can have a well behaved cat and a loyal furry friend.
If your cat loves to settle on the lap of your allergic friend or shower love on the one who doesn’t like cats, I’m afraid you’re on your own. Cats will be cats!
More from Elizabeth Danu:
The Pitfalls of Over-Managing Teenagers
Five Bold Strategies to Conquer Clutter
Get Your Husband to Do His Share of the Housework