Yes you can train your cat!
Here are some tips for how to start:
Encourage Good Behaviour
If you catch your kitten playing or exploring something they shouldn’t, give them something they can play with instead, or lead them to an acceptable play area. If they are trying to nip or scratch your hands or feet, give them a toy they can do this to instead. A bored kitty is a destructive one, so try to keep your kitten occupied! When your kitten is being good, give them lots of praise and attention, petting or grooming them, playing with them and a treat here and there!
Discourage Unacceptable Behaviour
Set the rules and stick to them, allowing you kitten to play rough with one person or cat but not allowing them to do so with anyone else is confusing to your kitten. If you don’t want them to play rough, they cannot play rough with anyone. This also applies to walking on counters, if you allow them to do so in one area but not another, this can be confusing.
Using items kittens dislike such as a squirt bottle, a can of pressurized air, or for nibbling some bitter spray can also be helpful, but you need to be consistent.
After using something like this, be sure to redirect the kitten to do something that is acceptable instead. If the unacceptable behavior is rooted to your kitten wanting your attention, and they are trying to obtain it in an unacceptable way, you can also leave the area and go behind a closed door if they follow you, withdrawing your attention. Do not (in this case) pick the kitten up and put them in another room, as you are still rewarding their behaviour by giving your attention and touch.
What not to do
Do not hit, tap or flick your kitten, they will see this as you being playful and will likely be rough back to you.
As stated above, do not pick up a kitten to put them on time-out, as they are receiving your attention this way and you are reinforcing the unacceptable behavior.
Using these tips you can also train your kitten to do fun tricks, just try and make it a game and have fun! For example, train your kitten to jump through a hoop by first letting them get comfortable and play around the hoop, then lure them through the hoop with a fun to at ground level, eventually you can raise the hoop a little in height!
If you have more questions contact the Chestermere Veterinary Clinic at 403-272-3573 or visit us on Facebook!
The Calgary Humane Society Article “Managing Your Kittens Rough Play.” 2008.
http://www.calgaryhumane.ca/document.doc?id=56. April 14, 2014.
For more articles on pet behavior from the Calgary Humane Society, visit: http://www.calgaryhumane.ca/behaviourresources