Training kittens - what you should know

Kittens cannot be trained like dogs, but a certain amount of training is nevertheless possible and advisable. This will create an ideal basis for a harmonious life together.

Can cats be trained?

Cats are more free-spirited, independent and headstrong than dogs. This is why training them will not work in the same way as with an obedient canine friend. And it doesn’t have to, because after all, cats do not have to know how to respond to “sit!”, "come!" and “heel!”. For them it is less about commands and more about what they are allowed to do and what they are not. Living together harmoniously with a cat is not something that can be taken for granted. Just picture a cat using the carpet as a toilet, the wallpaper as a scratching post and your trousers as a climbing aid. Cat owners can also do without being woken up at night, scratches on the door, markings on furniture and scratched arms. There are a number of things that should be dealt with as early as possible by means of training. This is both possible and strongly recommended, because it is easier to prevent unwanted behaviour right from the start than to try to change it once it has become a routine.

Basic principles of training a cat

In the first weeks of its life, a kitten will learn a lot from its mother. This includes, for example, using the litter tray and sharpening its claws on the scratching post. Playing with its brothers and sisters is also more than just an enjoyable activity. Here they learn, among other things, to be considerate towards others. A kitten who is too rough will soon have no one left to play with. In order to learn as much as possible when interacting with other animals, cats should not be separated from their family before they are 12 weeks old! It is then up to the new cat owner to continue the training. However, the first priority is to establish a trusting relationship with the new pet. If you start scolding your kitten right away, it will be difficult to build up a loving bond with it. You should therefore not be in too much of a hurry to start with the training, but at the same time you should not completely overlook this.

What to do if your kitten is having problems with its toilet training

Most kittens will have already learned to use a litter tray. However, the stress of moving may mean that things do not go quite so smoothly at first. Never scold your little friend and under no circumstances should you rub its nose in the pee. Instead, let your pet know what would have been the right thing to do. Take some cat litter, use it to clean up the mess and then place this litter in the litter tray. Put the kitten in the tray to show it that this is the right place to do it. Remember: not only nervousness or a bladder that is not yet one hundred percent functional can be the trigger for a “little accident”. The edge of the litter tray may be too high, the kitten may dislike the tray having a hood, you may have used an

Kitten spielt mit Spielzeug

Training also includes “proper playing“

Kittens love to play and frolic around wildly. It is, however, best to not let them go too far. It may be cute when a kitten bites your finger or climbs up your trouser leg, but if you allow this to continue over an extended period of time, you will be encouraging your pet to behave in this way. If your little friend has been allowed to do something over and over again, how is it supposed to understand that, as an adult, it is suddenly no longer allowed to do so? You will then have to get used to torn trouser legs and arms full of scratches. A kitten should therefore be taught at an early age that biting, scratching and climbing up your body are not allowed. Make this clear with a firm “no!” and bring the play session to an immediate halt.

Do not disturb!

Many cat owners are very tolerant towards their pets at first. This often includes allowing the cat to sleep in their bed. You may well be happy to allow this on a permanent basis. However, if, for example, you are a light sleeper and want to be disturbed as little as possible at night, then you should ban the kitten from the bedroom from the very beginning – permanently and without exception. Once your pet has got used to sleeping with you, it will demand it very insistently. This can lead to constant scratching on the bedroom door and late-night meowing. However, if you are firm and do not allow any exceptions, your kitten will sooner or later come to terms with the new situation.

Only the scratching post is there for scratching

No cat household should be without a scratching post or cat tree, because cats naturally want to sharpen their claws on a regular basis. If this important item is missing, your table legs, sofas, wallpaper and doors will suffer. Should this be the case despite the presence of a scratching post, then always try to catch your pet in the act. Convey your disapproval by clapping your hands and a firm “no!”. Then take your kitten and place it on the scratching post. You can also use your fingernails to show your pet that this is the right place to scratch.

What to avoid when training a cat

Just like with dogs, there are some no-gos when you have a cat. Under no circumstances should you shout at your pet. It can hear much better than we can. You should also never resort to force or make the cat do anything against its will. It is also unacceptable to rub its nose in a puddle of urine. Also, think about the appropriate time to take corrective action. It is no use telling your kitten off for not using the litter tray when it is coming back. The same applies to praising your kitten for not having used its scratching post today instead of damaging your wooden cupboard. Praise or criticism must always be given during or after your pet’s positive behaviour. Otherwise, your little friend will not be able to understand the connection.


Sadly, it is often the case that positive actions are taken for granted, while negative ones are punished. This is another area where dog training serves a good example, because it often involves positive reinforcement. In other words, as soon as the cat has done something positive, such as visiting the litter box, using the scratching post or coming home before dark, it should be praised and given a treat. Cats are intelligent creatures and are able to associate this praise with the specific action shown. They will remember this positive experience and will be happy to repeat their actions in order to get more attention and treats.

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