Question from Lourdes,
Hello! My cat Vivi who is almost 3 months old is literally a problem cat. She jumps on counters to steal food, scratches on things, nibbles on my fingers and toes, sometimes she jumps on my hair, she runs everywhere and it causes some of the furniture at home to fall. I have tried the clapping and shouting my loudest NO! to her but she does not mind. She gets scared for a while then she will do it again. She gets too annoying already and its a shame to admit but when I get so frustrated on her behavior. I am getting desperate and sometimes I wish I had not adopted her, which afterwards I regret because even though she is like that I love her dearly. I just wish she would behave. Sometimes i miss my quiet life before I had her. Now everyday all i do is shout and clap my hands and get annoyed and cry, I think it's not healthy anymore :( Please help!
Answer from Amy:
Thank you for your question. I understand it must be frustrating for you to see all that is happening, but don't worry. There are things you can do to mend your relationship and make you and your kitten's life more enjoyable.
Stealing food off the kitchen counter:
Clapping hands or using an air-horn works because she will associate stealing food with an annoyingly loud sound. However, once you incorporate shouting at the top of your lungs or even gesturing or using your hands to brush her off the kitchen counter, she will quickly learn that you are the person that tries to stop her and she needs to find another way to get to the food.
So the key here is to set it up so your cat doesn't know it's you. Many animals can easily learn that they can't do certain things with a human present, but they can when the person is gone.
In this case, you can set her up, leaving out some food on the counter the same way you do every time she comes around to grab it. Once she has her paw on the food, use an air-horn or something to startle her. If you are not present, that would work even better.
This may take a while to train your kitten especially for cats that have learned how things work around the kitchen. If you think your kitten knows you more than you think, setting her up without a human around is probably most effective.
Remember that cats do learn through trial and error. You will need to repeat the process at least several times until she finally gets it.
Scratching your favorite things:
Cats scratch because that is part of their instinctive nature. They scratch to exercise their claws, getting rid of the outer layer of the nails and marking their territory in the house. There is no way to stop a cat from scratching, so the best way to deal with it is provide alternatives for her to scratch. Having a nice scratching post or several scratching pads would greatly reduce chances of your cat destroying your favorite furniture.
If you know where your cat usually goes to scratch, place a scratching post or pad near the area and add a pitch of catnip to it for better result, that way your cat will find the post/pad more appealing. At the same time, purchase Bitter Apple from the pet store and apply it on the furniture that you do not want your cat to scratch. Bitter Apple contains a taste that is repulsive to cats and is completely safe and harmless to them.
Your cat will learn that by scratching the post, she will get to fulfill her desire to scratch and by going for the furniture, she will get a taste of the yucky Bitter Apple. Through trial and error, she will get it very quickly.
Nibbling and licking:
The reason that your cat sometimes nibble or lick you is a sign of her showing affection. Sometimes she may just be playing with you, but she does not know that it could hurt you because you do not have a layer of coat to protect your skin from her sharp fang or claws.
In order to discourage your cat from doing this, you can firmly (not loud) say no and calmly walk away. Kittens are playful by nature, you want to prepare a lot of toys such as stuffed animals for her to go wild with. Cats have inherited their predator instinct from their ancestors, so they like to prey and hunt. When your cat starts scratching you or nibbling on you, you can give her a toy to wrestle with instead.
So the key here is to stop and walk away and provide alternative things for your cat to play rough with.
How to stop my cat from destroying the house:
Your cat seems to be quite a fire cracker. The reason that sometimes cats become "destructive" in the house is because maybe they are screaming for more play time. They are bored and that's why they are trying to find something fun to do by virtually running around and knocking off things.
Get a toy where you and your cat can play together. There are many toys out there that cat owners can play and bond with their cats. Feather wands and laser pointers are great interactive toys. Also, if your cat likes to run, you can try to play fetch with her. If she is more of a jumper, then she would love the feather wand.
There are many other toys out there that Vivi can play with by herself. Turbo Scratcher is a great one.
Once you have tired your cat with loads of good activities, she will not play running around, instead she will probably go for a nap and get some rest.
Kittens are very playful, curious and bold. They tend to have more silly antics and undesirable behavior than older cats. By the time Vivi gets older, she will probably settle down a bit at least. When a kitten is doing something you don't wish her to do, keep in mind that it is not really her fault. Kittens are just doing what a kitten is supposed to do. They need play time, a lot of attention from their owners and guidance (It is almost like taking care of a child).
There is a learning curve for your kitten, but give her some time, she will learn. If you follow through everything correctly, you will definitely see results. By the time you see changes in your kitten, it will be the most rewarding thing you will experience.
Good luck and hope this helps.