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.
Kittens 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.
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.
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.