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How do you train a kitten?

04.01.2024 - Reading time: 7 minutes

Three kittens are sitting in a basket

The most important tips for your kitten's first months.

Training a kitten – isn’t that a paradox? After all, cats are known for their self-confidence and strong will, which quickly leads to the cat owner becoming the servant of “Their Majesty”. To make living with humans easier, kittens need to learn a few basic things. Find out here what you need to teach your kitten.


Inspired by nature: how do cats raise their kittens?

During the first weeks of its life, a kitten will be taught the most important lessons for its future life as a cat by its mother – through imitation and guidance – and by interacting with its brothers and sisters. That’s why it’s so important for a kitten to stay in its natal home for at least twelve weeks, ideally thirteen, to be fully socialised. The elementary phase takes place between the sixth and twelfth weeks of the kittens’ lives. By interacting with its mother, a kitten learns to clean itself, to eat from its bowl, and even what a litter tray is for and how to use it.
Furthermore, the kitten starts to interpret the body language of other cats and to react appropriately. By playing and having fun with its mother and brothers and sister, the kitten is practising typical movements, testing its strength – basically, the kitten is learning how to behave like a true cat. When necessary, the mother gives her offspring a gentle paw to calm it down.
As a human, it’s best to use sound signals and the reward principle when dealing with your kitten. A useful tip: to scold the kittens, cats make a clacking sound in the back of their throat – humans can imitate this sound to scold the kitten. Even a slight blow to the face is a command to stop and behave in “cat language”.

How do you train a kitten well?

Cats respond well to positive reinforcement. First of all, gain a kitten’s trust using a sneaky route – its stomach, for example. If a treat is associated with desired behaviour, the kitten will quickly understand the link and will want to get closer to you. Take this opportunity to stroke them. Extended cuddles and games are also very popular. Once the ice has been broken between you and the kitten, you can start training them. Rule number one – for you, not the kitten: never shout at your pet or punish them! Fear is completely counterproductive in kitten training.

The most important command: No!

Living with a kitten is easier when they know exactly what they are allowed to do and where they should go when called. Unlike dogs, whose basic training consists of a larger number of commands, two “commands” are enough for cats – for example, the word “No!” to stop bad behaviour in time, and their name to get their attention.

Training methods

  • Scolding: if your furry friend is about to do something they are not allowed to do, comment on the action with clear commands (e.g. “No!” or “Stop!”). There’s no need to shout as this may frighten the kitten. They can sense when you’re upset anyway.
  • Immediate command: this command should be given immediately, otherwise the kitten will not associate the command with its current action. The window of time for giving the command is only one or two seconds.
  • Praise your kitten when they stop what they’re doing. They will be motivated to respect the rules.
  • Move the kitten if they don’t understand what you want, for example that they don’t belong on a shelf. Always put them somewhere different.

How do you train a kitten that scratches?

If you’re thinking of adopting one or more kittens – many owners like to take on two siblings – buy the necessary equipment before your little fireball arrives. In addition to food and water bowls, a litter tray and games, a cat tree and scratch posts are highly recommended to protect your furniture from scratches. Kittens and cats don’t claw at the sofa or cupboard to annoy their owner, they claw to mark their territory. If, despite having a great cat tree in the living room by the window, your little friend starts clawing at the armchair, tell them „no“ immediately, pick them up without hurting them and put them down in front of the cat tree. Cats are intelligent animals and they should soon understand. Give them a small treat and say something nice when they scratch in the right place. Even if your kitten doesn’t understand what you’re saying, they will understand by the soft tone of your voice that everything is okay and they can carry on enjoying themself.
Kittens love to play and when they are with their brothers and sisters, they spend a good portion of their time chasing each other and “fighting”. When they are playing with humans, they need to learn to respect certain rules, such as not being allowed to scratch. If this becomes a problem, stop playing with your little furball straight away and say “no”. Leave where you were and do something else.

How do you train a kitten to not bite?

You’re not a toy or a mouse and your kitten is going to have to understand that right from the start! Of course, it’s very hard for your little feline to resist the temptation of fingers moving past their nose. A kitten’s teeth don’t really cause pain yet and you might be amused to see them lashing out at your hand in this way. Think carefully about the consequences of this behaviour: bad habits formed at an early age don’t disappear overnight. It is painful when an adult cat bites you. If your kitten needs to chew, give them toys specially designed for this purpose.

How do you train an abandoned kitten?

Whatever the reason for a kitten finding itself without its mother before weaning age, if you adopt an abandoned kitten, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Give them a cosy bed to keep them warm – their body temperature must remain above 35 degrees – and protected from draughts. If they are less than five weeks old, you need to feed them with a bottle or a syringe. Your vet will provide you with the formula you need and tell you when to feed your little feline. As the kitten is not yet capable of excreting on its own, you should also replace the mother by gently massaging the perineal area with moist cotton wool. A mother cat usually cleans her kittens every day. You can also do this very gently by wiping the little orphan’s body and head with a damp, warm cloth. From around five weeks of age, kittens will want to explore their surroundings a little. Let them do this while making sure they don’t hurt themselves. Start teaching them to use the litter tray. Also show them how to dig to cover up their faeces. Patience and tenderness are the key words when raising such a small kitten.

How do you train a two-month-old kitten?

Kittens put up for adoption or sold are generally between two and three months old. It is often recommended to wait until a kitten is three months old before separating them from their mother. By then, she will have ideally taught them most things about being a cat. Premature separation can lead to behavioural problems in the little feline. A two-month-old kitten should already have been in contact with other animals and humans. This socialisation is very important for their development. Kittens that grow up isolated, as is sometimes the case in the countryside, remain quite wild and often don’t allow themselves to be approached. If you’re wondering how to train a three-month-old kitten that comes from a farm, you’ll need a lot of patience. They may have never entered a house before and everything is likely to frighten them at first. Above all, don’t push them if they don’t want you to touch them. Wait for them to come to you. This may take a few days or weeks. This kind of kitten is not suitable as a house cat.

Can a kitten be toilet trained?

As a general rule, kittens learn to use a litter tray from their mother. However, switching to a new litter tray after moving into a new home can be unnerving for kittens.

How to solve the litter problem:

  • Choose the same litter tray that the kitten is familiar with from its natal home. If necessary, you can gradually switch to a different model at a later date.
  • First of all, use an open litter tray that the kitten can easily get in and out of on their own.
  • Put the litter tray in a suitable quiet place, preferably in a corner.
  • Show the kitten where the litter tray is – place them in it without delay. That’s usually all it takes for the kitten to relax.

Cats quickly learn what they’re allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do, at least as long as humans are watching. When the area is “safe”, they will explore the forbidden zones. Cats also sometimes break the rules – apparently deliberately – in order to interact with their owners. If your otherwise well-behaved kitten suddenly starts knocking things off the shelf, get to the bottom of it – there is probably a reason for their behaviour.
Give your kitten some basic training and you can expect a harmonious life with the new head of the family – sorry, the new pet.


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