How to Correct Unwanted Kitten Behavior

It’s true, there might not be anything cuter in this world than a fluffy kitten. Those bright colorful eyes, tiny paws, and spunky personalities are enough to make anyone fall in love! While there’s nothing more exciting than bringing home a kitten to love and cherish, it can be frustrating when they start to exhibit some unwanted behavior. We commonly associate training in domesticated animals with dogs, but cats are just as willing and capable of learning right from wrong! Here’s everything you need to know about how to correct unwanted kitten behavior.


Why Kittens Misbehave

Mischievous, curious, independent, zany, and playful are many words we use to describe cats – but all of these personality traits are most evident when they’re young. Kittens are notorious for being a little messy, playing rough, and waking you up in the wee hours of night to play!

Kittens are a lot like toddlers or puppies. They’re eager to learn about the world around them, even if that means diving in head first. Scratching, biting, and jumping are all very common in kittenhood. When your kitten jumps on you and scratches your leg (we’ve all been there when there’s wet food around), they aren’t trying to hurt you. They might just be excited to eat, see you, or play. These things happen, and when they do, it’s important to remain calm and patient in order to effectively correct the unwanted behavior.

In a litter, kittens often learn how to play with their littermates or mother through ‘play fighting.’ If your kitten was abandoned or rejected in their first and most formative weeks, you may find them to be slightly more rambunctious, food motivated, and destructive. Avoid playing too rough with your kitten, as it can encourage the behavior. Learn when to walk away or establish boundaries to ensure your kitten understands they can’t be too rough. Kittens have superb emotional intelligence. They should be able to pick up on your social cues fairly quickly.


Redirecting Behavior

Redirecting behavior is the best thing you can do when raising a kitten. Providing them plenty of ample play time and exercise, you’re encouraging them to use their scratch posts instead of climbing up your leg. Similar to puppies and babies, kittens explore new things with their mouths, whether it’s your toes wiggling under the covers or the corner of your cell phone.

Kittens are often just trying to embrace their natural instincts (climbing, jumping, biting, scratching) but they may need a bit more guidance on how to do so properly. Providing scratching posts or cat trees can help them embrace these instincts in a controlled and effective way.

Additionally, be sure to provide plenty of play during the day! This can get your kitten into a routine of when it’s best to play, and that way they can expect it. It will also help prevent your kitten from waking you up in the middle of the night or engaging in other destructive behaviors when you sleep.


Adult Cats Are the Best Teachers

If you have an adult cat that loves kittens, don’t be afraid to utilize them! After all, cats build great language and rapport with one another when it comes to learning boundaries. Cats, naturally, are animals of boundaries. This can be particularly helpful if your kitten was abandoned, rejected, or neglected in their first few weeks of life. An adult cat can successfully help them learn the ropes of how to become a cat!

While it’s true that some cats aren’t fond of others, this isn’t always the case. Make sure to properly introduce your cat and kitten before letting them interact physically. This can be done by showing them to each other through the doorway, letting your cat see your kitten in a crate, or allowing space between them during their first meeting. It may take a few tries (as cats can get jealous and territorial), but once they become friends, you can entrust your adult cat to be the perfect teacher for your little one!


Spaying and Neutering Your Kitten

One of the best ways to correct unwanted kitten behavior or aggression is by sterilizing them as soon as your veterinarian clears them. Spaying and neutering helps eliminate hormone based aggression or desire.

Once spayed or neutered, your kitten may not mark as much, play as aggressively, or seek out other animals to try and assert dominance. Unsterilized cats may also split the first second they get to try and mate, which can not only produce unwanted litters, but increase their risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.


When to Visit a Vet

If you feel like you’ve exhausted your time, money, and energy into trying to tame your kitten, it may be time for a visit to the vet. Urinating or defecating outside of their litter box, extreme aggression, or destructive behavior could be indicative of something more serious, such as disease or disability.

If it’s been more than a few weeks and you haven’t seen an improvement, or have noticed unusual eating, sleeping, or drinking patterns, it’s a good idea to go see your vet. It could be a sign that something else could be going on internally. Keeping your kitten healthy is one of the best ways to keep them happy!


Don’t Forget to Stay Patient and Consistent

Kittens, generally, are quick learners, though it can seem like they’re taking forever to learn if they’re tearing up your furniture, arms, or getting into things they shouldn’t! When you encounter unwanted behavior, the best thing to do is to keep redirecting them while establishing firm yet gentle boundaries. Continue to positively reinforce behaviors you do like, either with food or affection, and redirect unwanted behavior with toys or gentle punishment.

Commit to your kitten and in turn, they will give you their love, respect, and devotion before you know it! Though they are incredibly cute and it’s hard to stay mad at those soft, sweet faces, consistency and patience are key to making sure that you both have a mutual respect!