Disciplining Kittens

Disciplining kittens is a touchy subject, but the reality is that kittens need to be properly introduced to gentle discipline in order to live safe happy lives while respecting their owners’ homes. Allowing your kitten to run wild without check is potentially asking for trouble later when he grows into a cat. It makes it much harder to introduce the whole concept of “no”, which will inevitably come up at one point or another.

DSC_0012Kittens are naturally very active, curious and adventurous. This is all part of learning to survive in the world as a full-blown cat. They will climb, chew, get into things, knock things over and scratch things. It may seem impossible to teach that flying bundle of fluff which things in the home should be left alone, but with a few techniques used consistently, they will eventually learn. You’ll never be able to keep a kitten or cat away from something he really wants to do, but at least he’ll understand it’s not an activity you accept and he’s a naughty cat when he does it.

First off, you must provide your kitten with things he is allowed to scratch, climb, chew and get into. A large, stable scratching post is an excellent investment in your cat’s happiness, and in turn yours. He will soon figure out that it offers height, exercise and entertainment, and that getting in trouble over scratching your furniture just isn’t as worth it. Toys can be as simple as cardboard boxes with holes cut into them, crumpled balls of paper or foil or paper or plastic bags.

DSC_0073Scratching furniture or climbing to forbidden areas

If your kitten has climbed to an area he should not be, or is scratching an object he should not, tell him “no” firmly or make a “shht” sound, then promptly go and pick him up and place him as far away as possible in another room on top of an object he must descend or escape from. My favorite, the very top level of their six-foot scratching post. You could also place him on the floor and cover him with a small blanket or put him in a little cardboard box. I like to tell them at this point that they have now been placed in the “punishment spot”.

The kitten will then be forced to tackle this obstacle and make his way back in order to try the naughty activity again, and this will often dissuade him after a few attempts. If your kitten is still quite small, you can scruff him gently when you remove him and always be sure to place him in a location where he cannot get hurt making his way back, no matter what his age. Scruffing them kind of drives the point home that you aren’t pleased, but when they get too big it becomes too uncomfortable for them. I have found that kittens get the point very quickly with this method.

Always be gentle with your kitten in order to avoid scaring them, but be swift with your motions. Be sure your kitten is getting enough attention and playtime from you or they may learn to be naughty on purpose just to get some interaction.

DSC_0036Whining and crying

If your kitten is crying, something may be wrong. Always be sure to check on your kitten if in doubt. Otherwise, you don’t want to run to soothe your kitten every time they begin to cry. Allow them to take a break and then go to see them once they’ve quieted a bit. This gives them a chance to calm down and soothe themselves, which will make for a less neurotic adult cat. It also cuts down on being verbally bossed around by your cat later on, which can sometimes be hard to live with.

A final tip

A cat’s world is comprised primarily of odors. Your new kitten will be adjusting to the strange new smells of your home and family as well as being suddenly away from his mother and siblings. If possible, bring something from his old home that has his mother’s scent on it, like a small blanket or piece of fabric that the mother has been allowed to sleep on. Put this in the kitten’s new bed and it will help to comfort them through the transition.

If you want a truly well-socialized kitten with the lowest level of stress upon transitioning to your home, adopt one that has been with its mother for 12 weeks or more. In a good environment, a kitten matures and gains a lot of confidence around this time and is much more ready to go and begin a new life with you with minimal issues.

Raw Feeding Kittens and Cats

Ever since I got my three sister cats as tiny, supposedly 8 week old kittens about five years ago, I have tried to feed them raw as much as I can.

Long story short, their much-loved kitty predecessor died at the young age of six from undiagnosed diabetes and acute renal failure and I strongly suspected her commercial, “high-quality” dry kibble diet. I wanted to make changes to fresher foods with my new girls, like I was doing in my own life with good results.

No, I do not spend a fortune each day feeding pre-prepared raw. I make my own!

DSC_0009I’d like to emphasize that you have to do your research with homemade raw cat food diets. They don’t have to be perfect, just as your own or your children’s diets are not perfectly balanced at every meal, but they absolutely must provide certain key elements.

I bought an electric meat grinder, found a great site online with a great recipe, and I’ve adapted it over the years to fit my cats and my budget. I’ve found that a homemade raw diet can be slightly cheaper than a good-quality, grain-free commercial canned food diet, although preparation time is a factor. I do still offer store bought canned food sometimes, and I do get lazy and give them a kibble meal sometimes, but I strive to keep cat kibbles strictly in the treat zone, where they belong. Even the most expensive “doom pellets” make excellent, low cost treats!

Well, of course I couldn’t resist starting this hard-luck litter of kittens on raw food right from the start. At this point in my life I don’t think I could bring myself to offer kibble to a small kitten. It would be like offering McDonalds to a baby.

Let’s be clear here: High quality commercially produced dry cat food is made from meat and byproducts (both generally fine), vegetables and (often) grains, all cooked at very high temperatures and coated with fat to make them palatable. Cooked food may taste good but it isn’t a natural primary diet for a cat.

Think about how convenient dry foods are. They require no refrigeration, no preparation. It’s the cat equivalent of a meal replacement bar. How would you feel about eating a big bowl of the same room-temperature, dry, possibly rancid, super-processed nuggets every day? These are completely dead foods that include significant proportions of things like vegetables and grains that cats cannot digest. They might as well be adding sawdust. Some probably do… Cellulose, right?

Cats are true carnivores and only need to eat meat. In the wild they catch and eat small animals, a diet very high in moisture. Cats evolved in the desert, and naturally have a very low thirst drive since they are accustomed to getting most of their moisture from their food. A healthy cat on a healthy diet never drinks much water at all.

Ok so, I’ve had these kittens since they were three days old. I was a little nervous about offering them my humble homemade cat food. Would they hate it? I had already been feeding the mother cat raw from nearly the start. She arrived with a bad case of diarrhea and did not produce a solid stool until I did so. Luckily she was totally into it and now has well-formed, firm stools. She’s a real wild girl who knows what’s good for her.

Benefits to Raw Feeding:

-Improved overall health, energy and longevity, shiny coat
-Vastly improved tooth and gum health, more natural eating motions, less bad breath
-Improved and reduced stool formation. Small and dry crumbly stools with no odor
-Improved mental stimulation when eating, each meal is different and fun to eat
-Sufficient hydration is maintained
-Wash glass jars instead of tossing cans

I noticed a couple of the kittens sampling the mama’s raw food at about week three. They were keenly interested in it. I had been adding water to make it soupy for them, but I don’t go out of my way to serve it warm. One kitten was gumming a piece of bone-in rabbit ribs for a good ten minutes while I watched. With no teeth yet it was a futile endeavor, but I was pleased with his enthusiasm.

At some point as kittens grow you may begin to worry that perhaps you should just leave out a bowl of kibble. Let me tell you, I’ve had this feeling. What if the babies get hungry between meals? The truth is, if you care about your cats then you’ll feed them regular meals and they will never go hungry for long. Cats were not made to eat all day long. They are made to catch a meal, eat that meal, and then let the gut clean itself out until the next meal. I would never go back to the All-Day-Kitty-Buffet. And it sounds funny, but it’s actually not funny at all, because my kitty died from it. Every cat out there is “doing fine” on their kibble diet until they’re not.

At week four, four of five kittens were eating the raw food meals and enjoying them very much. Now they all love it and much prefer it to all else, especially the batches made with fresh home-grown rabbit.

I feed about 3 to 4 big meals a day, (about 1.5 cups for 5 kittens and one momma) for the first four or five weeks, then reduce to two meals a day with fresh water always available. Use your own best judgement and keep in mind that kittens need to eat more frequently than adults. The momma cat is very helpful, she lets me know very clearly if it’s been a little too long between feedings.

The new chicken, rabbit and turkey formula seems to be a big hit. It’s very satisfying to be able to use my own rabbits and eggs to feed my precious cats. I love knowing exactly where the food has come from, down to the last detail. Today many bunny spines and other bones were ground up for them.

We do not waste a single bit of our rabbits. Literally, nothing is thrown away or even makes it as far as the compost, other than boiled bones. Everything is consumed by either human, dog or cat.

I’ll provide my catinfo.org inspired recipe in an upcoming post.

And One More Makes Ten

DSC_0007Yes, I am now caring for ten cats. My three cats, the five kittens who are almost ready to be rehomed as soon as I can get them fixed, the momma cat, and this little guy who showed up about a week ago.

Meet Fred. Or Fritter as I’ve been calling him today. I noticed him for the first time in the neighborhood about three or four weeks ago. He was running around looking very panicked and confused. I’ve seen him here and there since then, always looking very scared. Then about a week ago as I was doing my farm chores, he decided to make friends with me. He was very timid at first but he was hungry and lonely and once he figured out I wasn’t going to hurt him, he couldn’t get enough petting. He was obviously someone’s pet at one time and I assume he was dumped here. Sadly, this neighborhood is pretty notorious for abandoned cats.

DSC_0009His orange fur was absolutely chock full of black flea dirt and fleas and his coat was ragged, with something like bits of adhesive stuck under his chin that won’t come off. I went inside and got him the last Advantage flea treatment I had on hand as well as a bowl of food. He wolfed down the food and proceeded to follow me absolutely everywhere around the property while I completed my chores. He kept trying to talk to me but his little voice is so faint you can barely hear it. I can’t tell his age, but he seems to be intact so he’ll be coming along for the ferry ride to be fixed along with the kittens.

Right now he’s set up comfortably with access to my cold room off the house so he can get out of the rain and the wind and into a dry bed. He has made this his new home base. He cleaned himself thoroughly of all flea dirt after I treated him and he shows his unending gratitude by following my boyfriend and I absolutely everywhere when we’re outside. He even makes a point of going to greet my cats politely when they come by, even though they mostly just hiss and swat at him.

Who could have abandoned such a sweet boy? You can tell by his demeanor that he’s been traumatized and smacked around. Why does he have adhesive residue stuck under his chin? I shudder to think.

I may not like everything about the neighborhood I live in, but I do feel good knowing that I can help a few stray cats that would otherwise be out of luck.