The 11 Essential Steps to Kitten Training and Feeding

Training a kitten is a learning curve, as is training them to accept a healthy eating routine. By nature, they like to do things their way.

But through the use of stealth and cunning, you can encourage your kitten to learn without them being aware of your sneaky motives.

You can follow these tips.

  • Keep the training time short, focus only on one task at a time, encourage good behavior, distract from the bad, but above all – use the tastiest treat your kitten knows to reward and motivate them to learn a task.
  • Be very patient and calm with your kitten; it takes time to learn something new.

Training a kitten is completely different to training your dog. For one thing, these little felines are very independent and are not usually inclined to work for praise or attention like your dog is.

The secret to training your kitten is to use a treat, a very special treat that your kitten adores, to get them to perform on demand. And keep training fun.

So let’s break down that statement above and flesh it out so that you can understand the basics for kitten training and feeding.

The steps in brief.

  1. Keep the training time short
  2. Focus on teaching one thing at a time
  3. Encourage good behavior.
  4. Distract from the bad.
  5. Teach good table manners.
  6. Learn what motivates your kitten.
  7. New behavior takes time and requires practice.
  8. Use a clicker to encourage change.
  9. Don’t overdo training.
  10. Keep your kitten’s trust.

So let’s get started.


1. Keep the Training Time Short.

Whether you want to train your kitten to learn to use the litter box, or you are trying to get them into a healthy routine of regularly spaced meals, you must keep the training time short.

Learning time should be fun for your kitten – it should be exciting and rewarding for your little student.

They have a very short span of attention, so small snatches of training spaced throughout the day are the most successful way to move forward.

One of the best things to train your kitten to do is to come to their name.

Try making a distinctive sound such as a chirping noise or cluck with your tongue, then call their name. (Or you could use a clicker to get their attention.)

When they come to you, praise them lavishly and offer them a reward. Give your kitten a tasty treat, or play a game with them using their favorite toy. Flatter them into obedience.

Kittens tummies are like bottomless pits – they are always hungry! Enlist the help of your veterinarian if you are unsure of what to feed your kitten.

  • They will likely suggest starting with wet foods such as specially formulated kitten food consisting of broth and including hormone and antibiotic-free chicken or wild-caught salmon to keep them hydrated and healthy.
  • Kittens aged between 4 months to a year can be introduced to some dry food.
  • They are the most consummate snackers at heart and will do almost anything to fill the void in their tummy, so use this to your advantage when training.

Limit training to a few minutes at first and teach them one part of what you want them to learn – don’t confuse them.

Gently popping them onto the litter box to get them used to it is fine, or teaching them what bowl is theirs to eat out of is enough for the first lessons


2. Focus on Teaching One Thing at a Time.

Getting to know your kitten is a priority. They need to bond to you and get used to being handled, so spend some quality time with your kitten, and encourage gentle play and interaction.

Play is a form of training for your kitten, and it introduces them to their environment.

The next lesson is to introduce them to the litter box.

  • Some kittens may already be litter box trained, but they need to know where the box is in this new home, and how to navigate to it.
  • Put them into the litterbox after a meal, as eating is often followed by toileting.
  • Instead of just one litterbox, have two or three spread throughout the home so that they are never far from one when needed.
  • Don’t stare at them while they are on the box, give them privacy!
  • Ensure you give them a little treat for successful elimination.
  • Clean the litter box often. Kittens are fastidiously clean and won’t use a stinky box.
  • If they make a mistake and miss the box or don’t make it to the box on time, let it slide. Don’t make a fuss, just pop them on the litter box in case they are not yet finished, clean up their mistake, and spray with a citrus-based spray (kittens dislike the smell of citrus) so they don’t come back to this spot thinking its ok to do more of their business there.

Don’t try to teach everything at once or they will just get overwhelmed and anxious.

Remember the golden rule with training and feeding kittens.  Reward and praise the smallest of success, ignore any mistakes,  and gently encourage progress.


3. Encourage Good Behaviour.

Kittens need guidance. Often it is the mother cat who keeps these mischievous rascals in check with a growl or a nip.

They love to bite and attack, but as they grow, their play can become painful.

I remember my cat Panther; as a kitten, she used to hide and then attack our bare feet when we walked past. At first, we thought it was cute when she exploded from under the bed to attack, but as she grew we discovered having her teeth and claws sunk deep into our feet was not so funny.

It took a lot of training to undo the habit that we had unwittingly fostered. Wearing shoes certainly helped.

When your kitten patiently waits for their dinner, when they calmly sit while you groom them, when they respond favorably to crate training, then they deserve a nice treat and a cuddle or two.

Respond enthusiastically to good behavior. Make a fuss of them and offer a tasty morsel to encourage them to repeat what they learned.

Give them a new toy to play with or spend time grooming them to reward their positive actions.

Always respond positively and kindly to let them know that they have pleased you.


4. Dealing with Bad Behaviour!

Too many times, we respond to bad behavior and yet ignore the good behavior. You have to turn this around if you want to train your kitten.

If your kitten starts biting you hard, don’t growl or react – instead  – push them away or put them on the floor and ignore them.

  • Don’t explain why you did this to them– that is a form of attention and defeats the purpose.
  • Don’t look at them – avoid eye contact.
  • If they jump back up and start to bite again, repeat the first step, put them down.
  • If they persist with behavior that is not acceptable, shut them in the laundry for ten minutes or so.
  • If they are trying to eat their food as well as other kittens or even the dog’s food, put them in time out again. Feed them separately until they get the message.

Ignoring your wayward kitten lets them know that when they please you, they get awesome rewards, and it is so much fun.

When they are naughty, they learn that life is not so much fun. It is boring.

They may need quite a bit of time to learn this, so be patient.


5. Teach Good Table Manners.

Kittens can be finicky eaters, or they can devour anything that remotely looks like a meal.

They can test your patience when it comes to food preferences. Felines have temperamental digestive systems, so if you are changing their diet, do so in small steps at a time.

If you don’t teach your kitten some manners around mealtimes, then you will have them demanding food every time you eat, or they will be under your feet every time you go into the kitchen.

They will try to climb up your leg at mealtimes to get to your food, or leap up onto the table to get at the food.

Those are not the habits you want to encourage!

Your kitten needs to learn they cannot demand food and expect to be fed every time.

They need to learn that they are given four-plus meals per day, and that is it. This is where you reward good behavior, and ignore or firmly put the kitten back on the ground when they try to climb up to get at the food.

If they insist on bad behavior, time out in the laundry may be required to force home your message.


6. Learn What Things Motivate Your Kitten.

There are certain things your kitten may love to do, whether it is eating, playing, chasing, or just sitting in your lap while you groom them.

These are the things that you can use to coerce them into participating in the training.

If you use these preferences to reward your kitten when they do something you want them to do, they will quickly learn that if they pander to your whims, they will get something worthwhile.

You call it bribery, I call it a win for each party!

If your kitten loves playing with floating bubbles, they will learn to sit quietly while you trim their nails if you blow bubbles for them for the next 30 minutes. They get what they want, and so do you.

If they eat their meal quietly and calmly, rather than walking in and over it, then you give them their ultimate tasty salmon treat! It is worth it for them. They will want to learn.


7. New Behaviour Requires Time and Practice.

Forging a new habit takes time. Frequent repetition helps to cement a new habit into daily life.

Don’t be surprised if your little kitty forgets a lesson from time to time. Just go back and repeat it until they get it.

Ensure you always use the same terms that you started with, or you will confuse your kitten.


8. Use a Clicker to Reinforce Change.

A handy tool for training your kitten is a clicker. The clicking noise it makes is unique and distinctive.

If you click when your kitten does something you asked them to do, it is like instant gratification for doing well, but you still have to follow it with a tiny snack reward.

The click means ‘good job’ and kitten knows they can look forward to a treat.

Keep in mind a kitten isn’t necessarily inclined to work for praise or attention like a dog would. They are independent creatures and you have to give them a reason to cooperate with you, hence the reward.


9. The Reason Behind Training Your Kitten.

Training your kitten can take a lot of your time and it is a commitment, so you may be wondering ‘Why should I bother?’

The answer is simple.

  • Having your kitten come when you call their name saves a lot of time and energy,  compared to  having to go and look for them (only to have them hide thinking it’s a game)
  • Training will keep them safe. If they learn to ‘stop’ on command, it could save their life near a road.
  • It will save your furniture from being destroyed. A firm ‘no’ or a spray of water will stop the couch or your delicate net curtains from being destroyed.
  • It makes taking them to the vet a pleasure. If you have trained them to enjoy their crate and to be carried in it, they won’t freak out during a visit to the vet.
  • If they are eating chocolate or some type of garden chemical, it can save their life if they stop, drop it, and come to you on command (for that tasty treat remember!).

These are all valid reasons to keep persevering with your kitten. Plus, having a well-trained kitten makes life a lot easier.


10. Don’t Overdo The Training.

Just a quick mention here of the obvious  – kittens get bored quickly, so keep training short and interesting.

If what you are trying to teach them is not fun, be prepared to lose them as they race away to chase a leaf in the breeze!


11. Keep Your Kitten’s Trust.

 Kittens are like adult cats, they do not respond well to punishment or ridicule. They need to be gently led, not forcibly pushed to learn.

Kindness and patience are your greatest assets when training or feeding your kitten. Praise them when they please you, and ignore lapses in their behavior that you don’t approve of.

Kittens hate being ignored, so they will learn quickly what pleases you and what doesn’t.

Remember your small feline is a dignified creature and has a large ego; they will not forget if you insult their pride.

Kittens are very intelligent and can learn an amazing amount of skills … if they want to.

It is your job to ensure that your kitten finds the training fun and beneficial for themselves!


Writer: Jean Brewer

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