The Nature of a Cat
How many times have you looked at someone and wondered what makes them tick? Why do they behave the way they do? Is it genetic, family environment or just plain personality? In people it is a combination of all these things.
Well, it is equally true in the behavior of most cats. All the things that have happened to a kitten from the day of birth, along with genetics have an effect on their personalities and behaviors.
By the time a kitten is born its personality is basically formed along with its genetic foundation. Genetics play a part in whether or not the kitten will have longhair or straight hair. Its coloring will be determined by genetics, along with some personality traits such as playfulness, if it will be a talker (meower) or if it prefers to be a loner.
It has been said that a kitten picks up most of its personality from its father.
By the time a kitten is ready to leave the litter, its socialization period is basically over and its personality pretty well in place. A kitten that has had a bad experience during the first few weeks of life, such as someone stepping on its tail or experiencing a loud noise close to it, will develop some fearful tendencies that with effort for the most part can be overcome. So the important thing is to pick a kitten that is showing the kind of personality you would like to see in a grown cat. Granted what you do with the kitten once you get it home can change its personality and behavior patterns.
For example if you pick a kitten that is happy and friendly and keep it isolated from people, it will grow to be leery of people and fearful.
Training a kitten (and a puppy) should begin the moment you pick it up in your arms and head for home.
In the case of a kitten born to a pair of feral cats or a domestic pair of cats that are scared of their own shadows, you can with a tremendous amount of socialization grow then up to be extremely loving and friendly cats.
I have had the privilege of raising two feral kittens, one that was only days old and the other a few weeks old that have grown into very friendly cats that accept people with no problem. However, on the other hand I have a 12-year-old feral male cat that I found when he was about 9 weeks old that no amount of socialization will convince him people are fine. He is great with me most of the time, but runs from my husband and we have had him all these years.
It is true that nature sometimes overtakes nurturing. Some cats are born to be lap cats and some are not. Some seem more aggressive, while others are very passive. Some cats are high maintenance, some cats talk a lot, some like to play and others would not touch a toy mouse if their lives depended upon it.
A cat is a cat, that is true, but you can have a hand in the development of its behavior patterns around the house. It is natural for all cats to claw and scratch, climbing is a natural instinct, it is natural for cats to hunt and stalk small prey, these are inborn natural behaviors that since the beginning of time, cats have done these things. There has not been a breeder that has been able to breed these instincts out of a cat nor has anyone been able to breed an instinct to chase only blue balls into a cat. These things are part of a cat's true nature.
However, all is not lost, as you can in subtle ways, convince your cat to change some of its annoying behavior patterns, with patience and some bribery.
Scratching is a natural behavior; it marks the cat's territory. So before your kitten starts to destroy all that you hold dear to your heart, you have to begin the training process almost at once. Scratching posts are the answer, they are inexpensive to buy, you can make them or you can ignore them and let kitty claw the sofa.
There are vertical posts (make certain they are sturdy and will not fall over), there are horizontal ones that lay on the floor, they are made of many things. I discourage the ones made of carpet unless the carpet is turned inside out, as scratching carpeted posts can give kitty the idea that the rug is a prime target, too. I prefer sisal or hemp post for vertical ones and the honey combed cardboard ones for horizontal ones. A little catnip rubbed on the posts and a little coaxing from you should convince kitty they are fun.
Trimming your cat's claws at a very very early age is also a way to discourage furniture clawing, as one of the main reasons cats claw is to remove the outer shell from their nails, along with marking their territory.
Your vet will be very happy to show you how to do this, but you need to start at once.
Generally mom has already taken care of litter box training, before you picked up your kitten. However, it is important to keep a litter box in a place that is easy for kitty to find and easy for kitty to get into. As time marches on a bigger and taller box will be necessary. The most important thing concerning a litter box is that it has to be clean.
Kittens need to be played with, do not expect a lonely kitten to entertain itself all day while you are at work and then sleep all night. No, no!
Sorry, but you have to participate in the rearing of kitty, if you want a good nights sleep and a happy cat. There are many inexpensive hand held toys on the market that look like fishing poles with a mouse or fish on the end, these are great fun for the cat and you, too.
Kittens need interaction with their owners in order to become happy and well behaved cats. This interaction also helps prevent aggressive behavior, as the pouncing and chasing helps a cat get rid of its natural need to pounce and chase, and may prevent you from being grabbed by the ankles one day.
Having your kitten neutered or spayed is very important not only from a health point of view, but also from preventing a cat from spraying around the house. Spraying is a way cats mark their territory and it also is a way to release stress and tension. The earlier you have your kitten neutered or spayed the less chance you will have of this happening.
However, if you notice you kitten or cat showing signs of stress a great product you can find in some pet stores or on the Internet is called Feliway (TM) this is a scent that reminds a cat of its mother and has a calming effect on it. It can be bought as a spray or in a diffuser.
If you want to keep your kitten from learning to bite and scratch you, never and I mean never, play with you kitten using your hands. Play with interactive toys, hands are for loving pets and scratches. Yes, it is fun to hand wrestle with your cat, but remember kitty does not know it is hurting you, it is doing what a cat does and the fault is yours for allowing it.
In this article I have touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways of a natural cat and why they do what they do. Cats have been around for thousands of years and the basic nature of the cat has never changed. A cat is truly a wondrous creature and I am so glad to have mine in my life.