The Kitten Crazies

RJ with his puzzle box, which simulates the hunt.


At almost seven months old, RJ is coming to his kitten crazies a bit late, but deprived kittens often have disjointed development periods.

Last night was calm, until one in the morning, when the Urge to Play took over. At such times kittens develop a crazed look. There's usually only room in their baby brains for one thing at a time, and when they get ballistic at the wrong times, we first have to get their attention before we can get through to them.

Mr. Bond was also a culprit, and he settled down as soon as I told them, "Now is not the time." But RJ was in the groove, and after two or three scoldings didn't work, I pulled him into bed and tried some calming petting. He seemed to settle down, but then I heard all the rattling and pouncing starting again. So now I pull out the spray bottle, and blast him as he's running by. This got his attention.

Now he got the message, and soon he was curled up on the covers, tight against my feet, and finally went to sleep. Today he was extra cuddly, as though he was saying he was sorry.

I don't doubt that he is.

By showing him, in his calmer states, the behavior we expect from him, we have a bridge to his "better self" that we can reach when he's not as able to concentrate. It took a while, but I did get through to him, and we all got a good night's sleep.

This is why kitten training starts the moment they come through the door. Praise for anything they are doing that pleases us will give them a "go to" when they are getting in trouble. When they want to please us, and equally importantly, when they know how, they will do so more often than not.

What if they go crazy? Wild play is part of being a kitten. That is why we should kitten proof as much as we are able, give them a lot of toys so they can find the one that suits their mood, and encourage them to play when we are up and active. They aren't going to be calm and quiet all the time. They are kittens. Growing bones, muscles, and minds; all have to be exercised.

By getting them to play when we come home, after dinner, and again before bed, we are making sure they get their play time, and also get their companion time with us. Interacting with us will get them to listen when they need to.

Sometimes it doesn't matter if the kitten decides to play in the wee hours, especially if they are using soft toys. (We did remember to pick up all the ones with bells on them before bed, didn't we?) But when the kitten disrupts our sleep, a bedtime ritual will signal their brain that we want them to at least be quiet when we are. Cats are naturally nocturnal. But we will want to maximize their time with us, and that clock can be gradually reset by encouraging them to play and sleep on our schedule. This is something they will want to do when their time with us is enjoyable.

Kittenhood is a great time for learning. Don't make the mistake of finding them too cute to discipline, and then have to step in with an exasperated attitude. This only confuses the kitten. Be both firm and friendly from the beginning, start soft and small, and only ramp up when we need to. This is how we gain the cat's trust and love.

These are not only the best motivators; they are the only ones which work with cats.


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