Behavioral issues are one of the most common reasons that cats are returned after adoption or relinquished to a shelter in the first place. “He’s spraying on the carpets,” “She’s aggressive to our other cat,” or “She’s scratching the furniture” are common complaints.
But other times, the behavioral issues are disguised behind other statements, such as, “We have to move, and we can’t take her,” or “She sheds too much.” Those are behavioral, too; they’re a sign that a bond has never really formed. These issues are typically tackled with one-on-one adoption counseling, in-shelter behavioral counseling, or outsourcing to a private behaviorist.
A fun, efficient and effective way to preempt these issues for the kittens who will be adopted out is through a Kitty Kindergarten Early Socialization Program, through which kittens are exposed to and make positive associations with unfamiliar people, animals, and handling procedures, and also learn tricks.
In kitty kindergarten, the goal is to work on socializing young kittens (generally starting under 12 weeks of age) to people and other animals and situations they may come across later in life so they’ll understand that people, animals, and new environments are generally safe. In class, kittens should learn two things: to associate potentially scary situations with positive experiences; and to perform behaviors such as sit, come and “target” (touch a target with their nose or other body part), which can be used to replace inappropriate behaviors (including aggression) that may get them into trouble in a new home.
Kittens can easily be trained to enjoy the variety of situations they may encounter during their lifetime if we pair those people, pets, and experiences with food and other experiences that the kittens like. That means we can train them to love being in a carrier, going for car rides, meeting new people, being around other kittens and cats, being handled and carried, receiving toenail trims and injections, and almost anything else that would typically scare a cat.
Read the full article at The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Sheltering.
Guest post by Sophia Yin, D.V.M., M.S. The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Sheltering works to create a world where people and animals thrive, living happy, healthy lives together by focusing on key areas of impact: Addressing solvable behavior, pet care issues and housing-related problems to Keep Pets in Homes. Striving to Protect Cats by promoting innovative tools for managing cats wherever they live. To Reach Underserved Communities by increasing access to pet care and wellness services and information. And working to Increase Adoptions for pets already in shelters and rescue groups.