Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tips to Train Your Aggressive Kitten

My aptly named kitten, Attila (after the Attila the Hun - the warrior/conqueror) is the light of my life.  He loves to cuddle and to come sit up on my lap, purr and play.  However, I have had some struggles with him, starting from when I got him at 6 weeks old, regarding his aggressive behavior.  He often comes up wanting to play, with his claws out in all their glory, and the result is deep scratches and bites covering the arms and legs of whichever human he's set his sights on.  He also sometimes gets angry, if you push him away, not wanting to play, and at that point will go straight into attack mode, not stopping his pursuit until I either squirt him with a water bottle, or put a door between us.  Given the situation, I've done some research on what to do in these situations and what I have learned has really helped temper Attila's behavior.  He's only a year old at this point, and not yet perfect, but he's certainly come a long way from where he started.

1.  Training your kitten - Hands are Not Cat Toys

Scratching and biting by kittens is commonly caused by poor play habits early on. It is very important that you do not "roughhouse" with your kitten in the manner you might use with a dog. Playing rough with your kitten will teach him that hands are toys - a lesson that will be harder to break later on. 

* This was something, had I known, I would have stressed to my boyfriend, who loved to watch baby Attila "rooster kick" his little feet and sink his tiny teeth into my boyfriend's hand - cute when he's 6 weeks old - not so cute at 3 months.

2. Trim his claws

Hey, Rome wasn't built in a night, and it will take some time to retrain your cat. Meanwhile, you might as well protect yourself from damage. Claw trimming should be done regularly, anyway. There is no need ever to declaw a cat because of scratching behavior. Here is a detailed step-by-step instruction for trimming your cat's claws.

3. Use Soft Claws

(Or Soft Paws - the same product as sold by veterinarians.) Soft Claws are plastic "Nail Caps" for cats, which take the sting out of scratching and minimize damage to furniture.

4. Give Him "Time-Out."

You can either leave the room or take him to a small quiet room and leave him there with the door closed. He may just be overstimulated and in need of some quiet recovery. Open the door after 15 minutes. If he is asleep, which is often the case, leave him alone for awhile. If he is awake, he may be needing some loving attention. Forget the play for now - just pet him and tell him how loved he is.  

*This one works really well in my experience.

5.  Yell "Ouch."

Don't scream it, but say "Ouch" loudly and clearly. While you have your cat's attention, slowly remove your hand from his clutches. Don't yank it away or he'll think play is on, and he'll grab it again. Instead, gently push your hand against the cat, then pull your hand away.

6. Redirect His Attention

If your kitten is focused on you as the play toy, it usually helps to give him something else to focus on.  I have a lot of stuffed cat toys (and Q-tips, which he loves) laying around the apartment, so when he does jump at my hand or foot to attack, I will quickly remove myself, and put a toy in his mouth.  He almost always then redirects his attention to the toy and I'm able to walk away.  He also learns that toys are for chewing on, and human hands are not.

7.  Curing your kitten's boredom

Often playful biting of hands or feet occurs simply because your cat is bored, and is looking for a play object. A few things that helped for me:
  • I got him a playmate.  When I originally got Attila, I adopted him by himself.  A couple of months later, due to his over-active behavior, I adopted a second kitten, Maya, from A Tail at a Time.  Now he often chooses her as his playmate instead of my hands and feet. As a note, this is one the reasons A Tail at a Time will not let you adopt only one young kitten - two kittens are really about the same amount of work as one, but they amuse each other, instead of driving you crazy looking for entertainment.
  • I try to play with him with an interactive toy every day.  He loves Da Bird, which is a bird that flies around the room on string and the feathers move like a real bird.  I also just got him a laser-beam, which is great for me, because when I'm feeling lazy, I can just sit on the couch and he can chase it all around the room.
  • Cat trees, scratching posts, hanging things that dangle around the apartment - anything that your kitten can climb on or bat at, will help him expend his energy.
 8.  Feliway

I haven't had a chance to personally try this product yet, but it's been recommended to me.  It is supposedly affective at calming cats down so they are less likely to scratch you and your furniture, bite, etc.  Here is the website:

Acknowledgments:  Many of the above tips were taken from 's article in the Guide.  You can find the original article here:

1 comment:

Thomas said...

I didn't want to have a pet before, but my wife insisted on adopting a cat. My reason was that I don't like pets, because I hate cleaning pee and poop. When our pet Killa is 6 months, she always pees on our carpets. Sometimes, I ask the help of carpet cleaning services (Los Angeles-based). Here in our hometown, Los Angeles, carpet cleaners are truly trusted, and they give good services. That's why my worries about household chores lessened. My wife has a lot of patience in training Killa. Thank god that Killa learned to obey Mia's command.

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