My Mischievous Kittens Get Into Everything

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, discusses how to tame kittens that tear apart houses.

Q: I have two extremely mishievous 8-month-old kittens, Hank and Dolly. We have to keep them in the bathroom when we are not home because these kittens get into everything. We can’t have anything on countertops, dressers or tables. We must close all bathroom and office doors; if they are open, within minutes the kittens will either get into the trash or throw papers off the desk. All the cabinets have child locks on them because the kittens also will open them and throw stuff everywhere. They destroy the blinds if they are not left open so they can sit in the window sills. I have two windows designated for them to look out of. My boyfriend is so annoyed that he wants me to get rid of them or put them outside. Neither is an option for me. What can I do to fix this?

A: Hank and Dolly’s highly energetic behavior is normal for 8-month-old kittens. In addition to learning social skills, their extreme play is helping them develop coordination. The good news is that they don’t have to destroy your home in the process of learning their lessons.

A combination of mental stimulation along with various activities and environmental management will help preserve your house with cats. To start, give your kittens high places to climb. Cat trees, window perches, shelves and tall cabinets are a few examples of vertical territory the cats will enjoy romping on. Simultaneously, provide them boxes and paper bags without handles to play and hide in.

Interactive toys such as ball and tract toys and puzzle boxes will also help keep your busy kittens out of the drawers and cabinets. My favorite ball and tract toy is the Turbo Scratcher because the tract is perfect for hiding toys and treats in. Puzzle toys are also favorites with cats. If your kittens enjoy playing with water, buy them a pet fountain or install a motion-sensitive water device on your faucet. In addition, place vertical and horizontal scratchers throughout your house.

Interact every day by playing with the kittens, conduct treasure hunts and use clicker training to help tire them out and focus them away from using your belongings as their own personal toys. Schedule a minimum of two to three play sessions a day with the youngsters — always using toys and fishing-pole toys when playing. Conduct one or two treasure hunts a day, hiding either treats they love or their regular food throughout the house on shelves, cat trees and in toys. Most cats respond well to cat clicker training. In addition to teaching tricks, clicker training is an effective tool for teaching your youngsters acceptable behaviors.

Along with giving your kittens interactive toys and focusing their attentions away from your valuables, you need to make some changes to the environment. Put valuables and important papers in locked cabinets and drawers. If necessary, install more child-proof locking systems. Save toilet paper from the ravages of play by keeping it in a coffee can or similar container. Pull the window blinds up and install window perches in order for the cats to lounge comfortably while entertained by the neighborhood activity. Because window blind cords are hazardous to cats, place them out of their reach, on top of the blinds or shorten them.   

I don’t recommend confining your kittens to a bathroom while you are gone for the day. Bathrooms are not big enough nor are they stimulating for young cats who need to play and explore. If you must confine them, delegate one room as the kitten room and outfit it with vertical territory, scratchers, interactive toys and of course, food, water, litterboxes and comfortable places to nap.

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