20-June-2018 Shitty Kitty
I’ve never owned a cat before, let alone raised a kitten from birth. To start explaining why I’m raising a kitten, first I must explain how I have a kitten to raise. It’s kind of a sad story, my wife was volunteering at a dog shelter, it was her first day there. Within the first hour of her helping, there was a very loud commotion coming from the dog kennels. A stray cat thought it would be a smart place to give birth. I won’t go into details about the events that followed, unfortunately only one kitten survived. After everything was said and done, all the shelter staff wanted to continue dealing with the dogs, and my wife (Audra), having a golden heart, wouldn’t hear of it. She slammed open the shelter manager’s office door, and nearly screamed, “This kitten is going to die if you don’t get her supplies!” Taken back by this, she thought about it for a second, then replied, “You are right, here’s some money to get what you need.” Audra went to the pet store to get what she needed. When she came back the manager approached her and asked, “Will you take her home with you? If she stays here I know she won’t survive.” Without missing a beat Audra said “Of course.” So now I have a cat. I’ll admit she’s a cute little thing. She’s a fluffy black calico with a white eyepatch. During the whole situation she broke her tail, which gave her a hook shape at the end, and her name, “Hook.”
Raising Hook was really like raising puppies and children. Until kittens are about two months old, it is extremely similar. I would wake up every two hours to feed the cat, just like we did with our kids, and any puppies we raised. I didn’t know this when I first started raising a kitten. Luckily Audra helped me so much with learning how to raise the kitten. Without her, I’m not sure how well I would’ve done. She taught me how to feed the kitten, hold her, and despite not wanting to learn it, wiping the kitten so she could poop. Yes, kittens need to be wiped or else they will build up then explode, brutally. Actually, puppies act in the same manner, when they are first born. After wiping and feeding her, she then went back to sleep where I would run to the bed to get sleep before having to wake up for another round of feed then poops, just like human babies.
It is strange, I’ve grown up with dogs all my life, I even trained dogs for a living, it comes almost naturally to me, and raising puppies seems more like a fun past time than a chore. Being consistent and keeping a puppy entertained is all you really need to do to keep a puppy from destroying your house. With puppies if you don’t want them on the bed, by being consistent with one word and kicking them off they will learn it. I’ll admit that puppies are slower for the most part when it comes to potty-training than kittens, but that’s a consistency thing. If your puppy is being a little punk, and using you as a chew toy, its fairly easy to distract them with treats, a toy, or a walk. Now with kittens this varies quite differently, for starters potty-training. I did very little work and effort to train my kitten to use the litter box. To my own surprise she kind of just started doing it on her own. However, when Hook is in play mode, it is almost impossible to distract her, she wants to play with YOU, so I’ve tried distracting her with treats, and unfortunately, she isn’t really food motivated, she just wants to play. Distracting her with toys is counterproductive since it requires a lot of attention on your part and if you are, I don’t know, writing an essay about a kitten that won’t leave you alone, off the top of my head, it kind of defeats the purpose of distracting her. As for getting a cat off the bed, now this is possibly speculation, but I’m pretty sure Hook knows what off means but she decides to get comfortable anyways. I would tell her, “Hook, off” and point to the floor, in my brain she would reply in a monotone voice, “Nah, I’m cool here” following shortly after by letting me know she had no intentions of moving by laying down. This frustrated me, so I would get more stern with her “Hook, I said OFF.” Nothing but a dirty look back as a response, now I’m getting angry, “Hook, I said OFF NOW!” and I picked her up and put her on the floor. Almost as fast as I got up so did she. This annoyed me, so I picked her up and started heading for the door, and that’s when the claws came out and tore me up. So, I did the only thing in my brain that made sense, I got the spray bottle and squirted her, she ran screaming, “I’ll get you for this!!” and I slammed the door thinking I was victorious. Trying to remove said cat results in scratch marks, low self-esteem, and destroyed carpet by the door. Cats are extremely vindictive creatures, unlike puppies, just saying.
Determined to not allow my kitten to create the rules around my house, I sought out help. I first asked multiple cat owners about their cats and how they handle having cats. It became evident that two paths emerged out of the responses. The first response was that cats are untrainable and its best just to let them do what they want, or else they will ruin everything you have. I told those people that their cats have trained them well. The second response was that you will learn your cat’s “call”, by that I mean every cat has certain meows they do, when you learn them you can figure out what your cat is asking. After learning these calls, these people felt more comfortable communicating with their cats. It was interesting to me, but it didn’t quite help me figure out how to handle my kitten.
I tackled my problem by doing some research on specifically how to train cats. First thing I looked for is something that made sense from my point of view as a dog trainer, the site I ran across is called rd.com, which stands for reader’s digest, this article “Here’s how to Train a Cat to do 5 Life-Changing Things” by Damon Beres. The first thing he says is that you can’t punish cats, because simply put they don’t respond well to it, not like a dog or even a human would (Beres). Now when I say punish, people tend to think I mean beat the heck out of, don’t mistake punish for abuse. I have never laid a hand in an abusive manner to any animal. However, punish to me means spray with a water bottle, kicked out of a room, time outs, or even just something as simple as removing them from your lap. From what I gather, cats will have an opposite effect, instead of them behaving, they will get worse behavior. Think of rewarding for behavior you want to see, instead of punishing for behavior you don’t want to see. As for the positive training side, it seems pretty much exactly what I would do with a dog, I don’t think there is much difference short of what treats you will use. To my own surprise like a dog, “you can walk a cat to distract it, and burn excess energy”(Beres). The only difference for walking a cat vs walking a dog is that cats require a harness, they contort their bodies too well for just a collar and leash and can easily get out. I changed a few things that I do now, instead of offering treats that I think she should like, I bought different options and tried them until I found ones she really enjoys. I bought a new tiny cat harness that adjusts to different ages, and a small dogs leash for walking. As for distracting her with a toy it is still a pain, however, I have learned to hold the toys with my toes, so she leaves my keyboard alone while I’m doing homework or other things.
There are some nice things about having a cat, like having a buddy to watch movies with, my dogs are way too big to sit on my lap (although it doesn’t stop them from trying). The litter box thing is pretty cool too, and my daughters love the cat. My oldest daughter is rarely seen without the cat in her arms. I’d be lying if I said I was fluent in cat body language, but I’m still learning. It will be awhile until I’m completely comfortable raising cats, but it is still alive, so I must be doing something right, or at least my wife is. I also must add that some of the dialogue was exaggerated a little, I swear Audra doesn’t scream at strangers, and I don’t get into arguments with the cat… much.
Beres, Damon “Here’s how to Train a Cat to do 5 Life-Changing Things.”
Reader’s Digest, 5 May 2017, www.rd.com/advice/pets/how-to-train-a-cat/