7 Common Mistakes You Can Make When Training A Kitten

by Edwin Plotts
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7 Common Mistakes You Can Make When Training A Kitten
Training kittens can feel like quite a challenge. Set yourself up for success by avoiding these common mistakes made by most pet parents.

Many pet parents think that training a kitten is impossible. However, this simply isn’t true.

Our feline friends may require different techniques than those effective for training a puppy, but it’s absolutely possible to train kittens to become well-behaved cats despite their often mischevious nature.

When adopting a feline friend, it’s crucial to set the stage for good behavior early on by nipping bad kitten habits in the bud. As someone who’s spent a lot of time fostering cats of all ages, I know the types of pet parenting pitfalls that many can experience firsthand.

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Several training mistakes can make raising a kitten feel more challenging or stressful than it has to be, so take a proactive approach to avoid these seven common setbacks when acclimating to life with your new, four-legged family member at home.

Setting Unrealistic Expectations

Let’s start by looking at your expectations for your kitten. Are they realistic and fair?

Remember, your kitten is currently undergoing a lot of stress adjusting to its environment. You'll need to socialize your kitten to its new surrounding and all the experiences that come with it.

Prior to training your kitten, you can't expect them to know what counters they can jump on, fabric they can scratch, etc. Initially, they won’t recognize the difference between jumping on the kitchen table and their cat tree.1

It’s up to you to patiently train them on what behaviors are acceptable, but recognize that there will be an adjustment period while you first train your kitten.

Punishing Your Kitten for Their Natural Instincts

Kittens will be kittens. Temper your expectations for your kitten’s training, it’s also crucial to recognize that your pet is an animal with basic instincts. They will want to explore the world by chewing, jumping, scratching, and clawing at things.

These behaviors are completely natural for cats and shouldn’t alarm you.

Instead of feeling frustrated by these behaviors, embrace them by encouraging your kitten to entertain themselves by climbing or jumping onto their cat tree or perch, hiding out in a laundry basket or box, or playing with their toys.

Not Providing Sufficient Energy Outlets

Kittens have an abundance of energy that require healthy, productive outlets for release. Otherwise, they may become bored, frustrated, and/or destructive.

Be sure to make time in your day to play with your cat, ideally with toys and games that allow them to express their natural hunting instincts like wands or fake rodents. Many people don’t realize that when cats act weird by swatting at random things and knocking objects over, they’re actually testing their “prey” to see if it’s alive and whether it’ll fight back.

Help your kitten burn off some of that energy and tap into their inner lion with constructive playtime, so they’ll have less of an urge to inappropriately hit things off your desk, shelves, tables, and so forth. If you play with your kitten for at least ten minutes twice per day, you may help prevent some of the behavioral issues that can come with excess energy in cats.

Note: By playing with your kitten regularly, they’ll be able to focus better during training sessions, too!

Spending Too Much Time on Training Sessions

When raising a kitten, remember that their attention span is only so big — don’t expect them to stay focused for more than a few minutes at a time.

It may be logical to think that the more time you spend on training a kitten, the faster and better results you’ll achieve — but this mindset can quickly backfire. Extended training sessions may overwhelm your kitten, resulting in stress-induced behaviors, like hiding under the bed or urinating outside the litter box.

You’ll both feel less frustrated by keeping your sessions to five minutes or less, repeated several times per day for the best results.2

Choosing the Wrong Litter Box

Did you know you can set up a cat’s litter box the “wrong” way — and that it’s pretty easy to do? Cats can be very particular about their litter, litter box, its location, and more.

To minimize the mess at home and maximize the results of your litter training, keep these tips in mind when shopping for items on your new kitten checklist:

  • Buy unscented, fine litter that clumps together easily
  • Give your kitten privacy by placing the litter box in a quiet area of your home
  • Choose an uncovered litter box, which most cats seem to prefer
  • Pick a litter box with ample space for your kitten to turn around without touching the litter box walls and enough room for them to push their elimination away where they won’t touch it when coming back later.

Giving Kittens Attention for Bad Behavior

It’s natural to want to express frustration when your kitten won’t stop crying, claws up your nice carpet, chews through cables, or destroys a beautiful houseplant. However, negatively reacting to your pet’s inappropriate behaviors is a surefire way to reinforce bad kitten habits.

Like dogs, cats want attention from their owners (even though they can be known to act aloof and play it cool sometimes). So, if they receive attention from you when acting out, they’ll quickly learn that this behavior is rewarded with your attention.

Instead, reinforce your kitten’s good behavior, like when they use their scratching post as intended, by going over and petting them or giving them a treat. If you find your kitten behaving mischievously, ignore them or calmly correct the problem.

For example, if your cat is meowing excessively for food, walk away and ignore them until they quiet down. Or, if they jump up on the counter, calmly place them on their cat tree or perch, then give them attention once they’re in the appropriate spot.2

Waiting to Sign up For Pet Insurance

Don’t make the mistake of passing on pet insurance or waiting until your cat has a health issue to sign up, because any medical problem that occurs prior to enrollment will be considered “a pre-existing condition” and excluded from your policy coverage.

At first glance, it might not seem like a young, healthy indoor cat needs pet insurance, but kittens are prone to several accidents and illnesses that can cost a fortune to treat at the vet — especially if it requires emergency care after 5:00 PM or on the weekends when the office is closed.

However, a perfectly healthy kitten can develop health problems, such as urinary blockages, which will come and go throughout their lifetime, costing $1,800 to $2,500 on average a year to treat. They can also have an accident or injure themselves from jumping off high surfaces or eating a harmful plant or food, which can easily cost thousands of dollars to treat.

Having cat insurance before your kitten develops health problems or has an accident means that you’ll be reimbursed for up to 100% of your out-of-pocket costs, allowing you to always provide your kitten with the excellent veterinary care they deserve.

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Key Takeaways

  • Kittens need time, patience, and positive reinforcement to thrive in their new home.
  • Don’t reinforce negative behaviors by giving your kitten attention for them. Instead, reinforce positive behaviors with affection, praise, and treats.
  • Protecting your kitten with pet insurance can be a major life-saver as your kitten learns what objects are safe to play with, non-toxic to eat, stable to jump on, etc.

References

  1. Countryside Veterinary Services, “5 Cat Training Mistakes to Avoid,” Accessed May 10, 2022.
  2. VetStreet, “5 Cat Training Mistakes, Guilty of Any?” Accessed May 10, 2022.
  3. Veterinary Centers of America, “Housetraining for Kittens and Cats,” Accessed May 10, 2022.
Edwin Plotts, Director of Marketing at Pawlicy Advisor

About the author

Edwin Plotts

Foster/Rescue Parent & Director of Growth - Pawlicy Advisor

Edwin Plotts rescues and rehomes cats in Brooklyn, NY - while leading Pawlicy Advisor's brand growth. He's a pet parent of two rescued sibling cats: Greyson and Babs. He's also an avid volunteer with Flatbush Cats and The Toby Project.

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