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How do you teach them manners?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
After the critical points of surviving have been taken care of, Momma Cat teaches things to babies - manners with claws and biting, litterbox manners, not playing too rough, etc. How does a surrogate (human) mother teach those social skills? Especially so they are model kittens for adopters , so they will come back to adopt from the rescuer or rescue org again, and so baby doesn't end up in a shelter because of behavior problems.

Thanks Dusty!
post #2 of 7
Most vets and vet techs can spot a former bottle baby without having to ask the owner. They're usually mean little cusses. They're spoiled. They bite. They're controlling. In reality, they're often not very pleasant pets. But it doesn't have to be that way.

These poor little guys don't have mom there so they have to fill in the blanks. And there's a lot of them. And the humans are usually at fault for encouraging a lot of the bad behaviors because they are sooo cute.

The first thing is to avoid bad habits. NEVER let the kitten bite or scratch you, the kids, anyone. Kitty needs rough play, but not with your hand. If you have a cat he can play with safely, then monitor their play. Your older cat will set some boundaries. From the cat he can learn to be a cat. (Of course, don't introduce your kitties to the kitten unless they have their shots and are disease-free.) If a friendly cat can't be found, it's up to you to teach him. Get a Kitten Mitten from Petco or PetsMart. It's a stupid looking glove that looks like it came out of a bad B horror flick. He can swat, bite and attack to his heart's content. The important thing is that he's not learning that a human hand is fair game--literally. If he attacks your hand, tell him "NO!" and walk away. Game's over. Yes, it's hard. How do you say "no" to those sweet little eyes. Just remember, it's cute now. It won't be when he's 12 pounds. You can use an oven mitt. Anything, as long as it's not--B grade movie bad musical score played here--human flesh! Stuffed animals and SnuggleKitties let them roughhouse appropriately. (SnuggleKitties even have a heartbeat).
post #3 of 7
Another important thing to remember is that kittens learn what to be afraid of. Mom usually tells them that something is safe or not. If she's not there, the kitten develops fears to things he hasn't been exposed to: dogs, kids, strangers. These fears develop before they are six weeks old. So you need to let your kitten meet the neighbor kids. If you have a gentle dog, permit supervised visits. I had a Doberman who loved to bathe my three week olds. They were soaked to the skin, and they hated it because they smelled like dog spit, but they could be adopted to homes with dogs.

Let anyone who's not a psycho hold the kitten. When I first started raising kittens, I kept them in the bathroom away from disease and harm. When they went to their new homes they were very shy. Then my neighbors found out I had kittens. They came over and held them, fed them. These guys weren't afraid of anything. They loved to be held. Make sure the children are old enough to know how fragile an orphan really is. I don't let anyone under six years old hold one without me being right there.
post #4 of 7
When God designed the cat, he designed a perfect creature. After all, can you think of another animal that's come with preprogrammed bathroom manners?

When you notice that the kitten is weeing and pooping on his own, you can start training him to use the litter box. Training is the wrong word. Showing him the litter box is more accurate.

First, don't use a clumping litter unless it's a corn or wheat litter. I prefer World's Best Cat Litter because kittens experiment with their mouths and taste everything. If he eats corn litter, no problem. He'll just poop it out. If you use a clay clumping litter, it could lodge in his intestines.

I will wee the kitten and leave the pee and poop in the box so he can smell it. I may also take some used litter from my adult's boxes, again so it smells like, well, a litter box. As soon as you feed him, place him in the litter box. He may immediately go to work or he may play--just like a kid. However, he doesn't get to leave the box until he's gone to the bathroom. When he wakes up, put him in the box. If you see him start to go, simply scoop him up and set him down in his box. Praise him. Never yell at him because he didn't make it in time. Sometimes when they're trying to poop, they'll cry out. Kind of a pep talk. Put them in the box. Praise, praise, praise. If he's out and about, put him in his litter. Activity seems to get things moving.

Don't expect him to be able to do his job if you're having problems with diarrhea. So get coccidia, worms and other intestinal problems taken care of.

Remember, lots of praise when he remembers--don't yell when he forgets.

I bet you moms out there wish kids were this easy!
post #5 of 7
I know I'm preaching to the choir, but the final part of manners is to get your baby fixed while he/she is little--before the hormones have had a chance to kick in.

I love early spay neuter. I have a vet who routinely alters at 2 pounds. In an emergency situation, he even spayed and neutered one month old feral siblings for barn cats. They weren't even a pound. He said the spay was not problem, but he needed new glasses to find those little testicles.

The six month rule has nothing to do with the development of the kitten. In the early 20th Century, 2 months olds were commonly altered. They started waiting until six month in the 1930s when they first started using anesthesia on these operations. Ouch-yes-you read right. The anesthesia was so unpredictable that it wasn't safe to use on small kittens.

Now that anesthesia has advanced to the safe levels it has, there's no reason why 2 month olds can't be altered. The Winn Foundation has conducted studies on early spay and neuter and found it doesn't affect the physical development of the kitten. However, the earlier a kitten is altered, the more friendly it is likely to be (according to their studies.)

Early spay/nueter not only prevents sexual spraying and marking for both genders, it prevents a lot of different gender-related cancers. If the kitten is allow to develop sexually, you loose those health benefits and possibly the behavioral benefits. That doesn't even address the population problem.

I can't say this too often-if you have a mom cat reproducing you've got to catch her and spay her. Caring for ferals is a noble cause, but not if they are continuing to reproduce. Population control is issue NUMBER ONE.
post #6 of 7
Re: Litter box training

As an addition: 2 of my last litter did not pull their tails away from their bodies when they started using the litter box (they would wrap them around their sides and of course make a bigger mess of themselves). We held their tails back and up for them as a lesson. We also showed them how to bury their business, as they did not do that right away - I'm not sure if they would have picked that up on their own. Lastly, when they hit that age when they were starting to go on their own (not totally consistent yet), we would wipe over the litter box so they would relate elimination with the litter box. Once they started going on their own, they found the box by themselves.

There is nothing more rewarding and funny to see the young one eek out his first poop in the litter box, after week's of having to wipe their behinds. My husband and I cracked open a bottle of Champagne when Elwood first did it (first one in the litter). We got his back hunched over and actually grunted and snorted the whole time. We did a ROFL routine. Funny how the small things are such victories with orphans!
post #7 of 7
Hi, I'm maxine from southern colorado. I have lots of experiemce raising bottle babies, 3 of my five were in this situation. The first thing is remember, you are their mom now, they scratch because they knead with their paws when they latch on. when they are a little bigger and they do something that you don't want them to do, a real momcat taps them on the nose to teach them "no". I lightly, and I do mean ever so lightly tapped mine on their noses when they were being too rambunctious, and they get it pretty quick. just a little tap will do. Also though lots of cuddling and saying " oh how cute you are, kitty" goes a long way. All of my kitties still rub the side of their faces on me, to show that I'm theirs! hope this helps, hootiecat
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