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Guide to training a kitten

Most of us are aware of puppy training and the difference it can make at home, but kitten training is something that’s a lot less talked about. So, can anyone train a cat? And if so, how? Here’s everything you need to know. 

Most of us are aware of puppy training and the difference it can make at home, but kitten training is something that’s a lot less talked about. So, can anyone train a cat? And if so, how? Here’s everything you need to know. 

Written by
Anna McEntee
Home, pet and travel insurance expert
4 min read
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Can you train a cat?

Cats are notoriously self-sufficient. So you’d be forgiven for wondering why anyone would need to train their kitten. Most cat owners, however, put in at least a bit of groundwork when they take on a new pet, even if it’s just to teach them to use a litter tray.  

Cats aren’t as easy to train as dogs – they’re very independent and not as praise-driven. So it will require a lot of patience (and treats).

Why should I train my cat?

Apart from the fact that it can help establish a bond with your new pet, you might want to train a kitten to:

  • use its litter tray
  • use a scratching post instead of your sofa
  • come to you when you call it  
  • have its nails clipped and its fur groomed
  • use its carrier with a minimum of fuss
  • fetch. Some breeds, such as Maine Coons and Siamese, will fetch things when you throw them.

How to train your cat

Whether you’re training your kitten to use its litter tray or just fancy having it perform the odd trick, the techniques are often the same. Here are a few tips:

  • Start slowly - Break everything down into small steps. If you’re trying to train your cat to let you groom it, for example, reward it with a treat for letting the brush touch its fur. Then work towards actually using the brush in strokes. After that, you can gradually increase the brushing time until your cat is comfortable sitting for a full grooming session.  
  • Use lots of rewards - To train a kitten to come when you call it, stand a few feet away and hold a treat in your hand, where it can see it. Keep doing this, moving further away each time, until it will happily sprint to you when it’s called. Likewise, associate rewards with any positive progress when you’re trying to teach your pet new behaviours.
  • Keep training sessions short - Just a few minutes is plenty. Any longer than that and your cat will get bored.  
  • Don’t punish your pet for failure - If you punish your kitten, it will just run off. You’re also likely to make it stressed, which could result in inappropriate toileting, scratching or aggressive behaviour.  
  • Don’t inadvertently reward bad behaviour - You may find your kitten jumps onto the kitchen work surface because it knows there’s tasty food up there. In this situation, simply pick your kitten up and put them on the floor without interaction. If you do this every time, they’ll soon learn that jumping up gets them nowhere.

How to litter train a cat

Many cats learn to use their litter tray from a very young age, so you might even find that your kitten’s already litter trained by the time they come to you. If not, here’s how to teach them where to toilet: 

  • Keep the litter tray in the same place, so your kitten doesn’t get confused.  
  • Put the litter tray somewhere private and quiet, away from their food.  
  • Give your kitten lots of praise and a treat when they use the litter tray correctly.  
  • Change the litter often. Cats don’t like using dirty trays.

If your kitten refuses to use the tray, try changing the litter. Your cat might prefer using wood pellets to chalky litter.

How to train your cat using a clicker

You may not have heard of cat clicker training, but it’s very simple and can speed up the training process. You don’t even need a ‘clicker’ – a pen that makes a clicking sound will do.  

Quite simply, you click when your cat does something right, then give them a treat. After you’ve repeated this a few times, your kitten should get the idea and start to respond more quickly to their training.

Should I discipline my kitten?

If your kitten’s miaowing all night or tearing the curtains to shreds, you’ll want to take action. But the last thing you should do is shout at them or lock them in a cage. And it goes without saying that you should never smack your pet. Punishing your kitten will only make it avoid you.  

It’s also worth thinking about why your kitten is behaving badly. If it’s scratching the furniture, maybe it needs a bigger scratching post? If it’s biting your toes, it may want to play.

Instead of disciplining your kitten, give them lots of attention – and reward the behaviour you want to see.

Do I need to insure my kitten? 

Even though your kitten’s young and healthy, pet insurance is still a great idea. Vet bills can be eye-wateringly expensive and if your kitten gets sick or has an accident, you’ll want to have them treated without racking up debts.

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