Why Can't You Behave?

Nature shapes your kitten's personality, but it's up to you to provide some nurture.

By Charles Hand

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Scratching marks territory by providing both a visual sign in the form of the shredded tree or table leg or couch fabric and an olfactory signal.

The key to solving a scratching problem is to make certain it never starts. Once a cat starts scratching, it is very difficult to keep him from returning to continue marking his territory. The scent left by the original scratching does not last, and the cat instinctively wants to keep the scent fresh as a continual signal to other cats that the territory is taken.

Invest in a scratching post, which should be easy for the cat to find, and the kitten should be encouraged with praise when it uses it. For kittens that prefer clawing the carpet on the floor, experts recommend a form of wax-covered cardboard sold as scratching board that the kitten can be trained to use instead of the carpet. To further reduce the risk of inappropriate scratching, Fong recommends trimming claws enough that they do not need conditioning.

Another major issue with a new kitten is the litterbox. Though kittens take to litter quite naturally, a little acclimatizing is a good idea, which can be accomplished by putting the kitten into the litter to reinforce its natural inclinations.

On those occasions when a new kitten uses the floor for a bathroom, experts said to put the cat in the litter to establish the association between going to the bathroom and being in the litter.

In the case of feces, put the erroneously dropped specimen into the litterbox with the kitten and let the kitten practice its natural inclination to cover it up.

It is in such situations that a kitten's personality can have an impact on its behavior. Some kittens will get the idea immediately and never again have an accident outside the box. Others will require some degree of training.

Family Matters
Sometimes adding a kitten to a household that older cats have come to consider their territory can bring a set of extra issues that, just as with everything else, will be guided by the cats' personalities. Some cats will attack a new kitten, while others will attack the house by spraying or scratching to establish territorial supremacy, Fong said.

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