Unlike dogs, cats aren’t exactly famed for their trainability. Despite this preconception, our feline friends are highly intelligent, so it’s perfectly possible to train a kitten if you put in the work.
You don’t need much to train a kitten, just some treats, plenty of patience, and 10 or 20 minutes a day to devote to it.
You might be thinking: Why train a kitten? Many people choose to train kittens to reduce unwanted behaviors. For example, you might teach your kitten not to scratch furniture or not to spray urine around the house.
Essential behaviors for cats to learn are toilet training and socializing — a must if your kitten is nervous.
You can go the extra mile with trick or obedience training. While not all cats take to trick training, many can manage a range of tricks, such as fetch or high five.
Socializing a kitten
You’ll find kittens who love attention as well as those who are routinely scared and hide. This can be a particular problem with rescue kittens.
If your new feline friend is skittish, it’s best to start socializing them as soon as possible. The key period for kitten socialization is up to 10 weeks old; you can still socialize a kitten after 10 weeks of age, but it takes more time and patience.
Start slowly. Make sure the kitten has places they can hide, such as a covered bed or cat condo, so you don’t overwhelm them. Offer treats, but allow your kitten to come to you, and don’t pet or pick them up right away. Build trust with treats and praise first, until your kitten comes over to you regularly.
Once your kitten is used to being handled, it’s ideal to expose them to different people, including children, and common household sights and sounds, such as the vacuum cleaner or the TV.
Reward your kitten with treats for calm behavior.
Litter box training
An open litter tray with a low entrance is best when litter training your kitten. Choose a quality litter that’s safe for your kitten if inhaled or ingested.
Take your kitten to the litter box after eating, drinking, playing and napping, as well as at any other times when they’re showing signs they need to go.
Cats are naturally clean animals and like to do their business in the same spot every time, so most kittens take to their litter trays quickly.
Teaching your kitten tricks is one of the more challenging aspects of training a cat, but it can be fun and rewarding for both of you if you do it right. Teaching your cat to come when called and to shake paws are easy tricks to start off with.
Once you’ve decided on the trick, look for resources online. You’ll find plenty of websites and YouTube videos dedicated to teaching cats tricks, which will help you get the method down.
More kitten training tips
Keep it short: When training your kitten, it’s important you don’t overdo it. Remember that kittens are babies, and their attention spans are short. It’s far better to train your kitten in three sessions of five minutes apiece each day rather than one 15-minute session. Especially when training tricks, stick to learning one thing at a time. Don’t move on to the next trick until your kitten has the current one down.
Give treats for tricks: Positive reinforcement is key to teaching kittens. They tend to be motivated by food, so use treats to reward them when they’ve done the right thing, whether that’s peeing in their litter box or nailing a high five. You may find using a clicker to mark a behavior at the same time as giving a treat yields better results than using treats alone.
Never use punishment: Kittens don’t understand punishment. It will only cause them to run away, hide and become fearful of you. Punishments also cause unnecessary stress, which is likely to lead to more unwanted behaviors and may even cause health problems.
Try redirection: Use distraction techniques to deter unwanted behaviors. If your kitten is clawing your furniture or baseboards, for instance, provide an appropriate scratching post for them. Toys can also act as a distraction technique.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews spends thousands of hours analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for consumers.
Hammocks for cats
Cat hammocks provide a comfy place for your kitties to sleep and often appeal to cats who refuse to snooze on regular cat beds. Here are three recommendations on cat hammocks to try.
Petstages Easy Life Lounge
A solid take on a conventional hammock at an affordable price. Easy to set up and take apart, it’s comfortable for cats to rest on, but the material is not highly durable.
This freestanding lounger features a built-in scratcher and comes with catnip.
Trixie Pet Products Miguel Cat Tower with Hammock
This compact collapsible freestanding cat tower features a cat house in the base and a hammock up top, but sacrifices some stability.
Its soft, plush finish is hand-washable, and features a scratching area and hanging toys.
Kitty Cot Original
This window-mounted model is sturdy and easy to install, giving cats a great view of the outside world.
Some users report problems with the suction cups, but they work well for the most part. It’s made from wipe-clean material, available in three sizes and holds up to 25 pounds.