P. 661

D. Martin1
1TEAM Education in Animal Behavior, Behavior, Spicewood, USA
Kitten Start Right: Preventing Behavior Problems in Kittens
Debbie Martin, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, LVT, VTS (Behavior) Spicewood, TX, USA,
Prevention of problem behaviors is easier than treatment. Problem behaviors in cats are often associated with the stress of other cats in the house or outside the home. To decrease social tension in multi cat households, provide core areas for each cat, increase vertical living space, and prevent exposure to outside cats. When introducing a new cat to a resident cat, it should be a gradual process.
There are pros and cons to con ning the cat indoors versus allowing access to outside. The indoor environment is not as enriching or stimulating. However, the indoor environment is safer. Through management and environmental enrichment, indoor cats can be given alternative activities to allow for mental and physical stimulation.
Environmental Enrichment
Implementing routine play sessions with the owner in the morning and evening provides for routine interactions. Cats enjoy playing with toys that encourage pouncing and stalking (predatory sequence). Feather toys on the end of a pole, small stuffed toys and balls encourage exercise and positive interactions with the owners. Any type of direct play with human hands should be avoided as it can promote inappropriate play and result in potential injury to humans through accidental scratches and bites.
Cats are natural grazers and they are designed to eat small amounts of food at frequent intervals. Food puzzle toys can help to prevent obesity in cats as there is more activity involved in the feeding process and they provide great mental stimulation. Food puzzle toys also allow for exploration and discovery.
Hiding food and treats around the house in small dishes or cups promotes exploratory behavior and appeases the cat’s natural desire to search for food. Although not a toy, some cats enjoy the option of having indoor grass available.
Providing exploratory outlets through a variety of interactive toys will help to appease the cat’s curiosity.
Vertical space is important not only for management but also environmental enrichment. Vertical space creates areas for exploration and additional hiding places. Cat trees, perches, shelves and elevated hiding places are great options for creating vertical space for cats. Tunnels, boxes and paper bags can be used at lower levels. In the veterinary setting, a cardboard box or paper bag placed in a cage with a feline patient can allow the cat a safe place to hide in the novel environment.
Secure outdoor enclosures and fences are available to allow cats to have exposure to the outdoor environment within a con ned area.
The First Veterinary Visit
By taking a few extra minutes during the  rst appointments, the kitten will be able to acclimate to the environment. Utilizing treats or canned kitten food during the examination and vaccination process, the kitten will likely be so distracted she does not even notice. This is also creating a positive memory for the kitten.
The goal always should be to create a positive association with the examination process that can follow the pet through the rest of his life. Rough or forceful handling methods teach fear and mistrust and often result in a dif cult to handle cat. It also sets a poor example for owners to follow and could be considered malpractice.
Prevention Topics
Play Biting and Scratching
The motivation of this behavior is play and attention. It
is a normal behavior of cats. They interact and explore their world with their feet and mouth. The consequence of the behavior is attention from the human. To prevent and manage this behavior, it is necessary to avoid playing with the cat with your hands, to provide appropriate toys, and schedule play time. Proactively provide the kitten with appropriate outlets for this behavior. If proactive measures are unsuccessful and the cat begins to mouth or scratch the owner, the owner should be advised to immediately stand up and look away brie y, and then
ask the cat to sit and redirect the cat to an appropriate toy. Alternately, send the cat to a desired perch or resting place and reward. Avoid punishment (squirt bottles, verbal reprimands) because it creates fear and distrust and does not appease the cat’s motivation to play.
An Urban Experience

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