Kitten Psychology: Understanding What Your Cat is Thinking

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Understanding your kittenCat Image

Cats have a reputation for being fairly enigmatic and difficult to read at a glance. It's worth trying to understand what your kitten is thinking and why they behave the way they do. That way, you'll not only be able to understand their intentions and build an even closer bond, but it will help you to manage problematic behaviour, so they become a cat you love to share your home with.

How your kitten becomes a clever cat

Kittens learn by experience. If it's a happy experience, your kitten will want to repeat it. If it's an unpleasant experience, they'll try to avoid it. When it comes to training your kitten, the most important thing to remember is that rewards work. Shouting most certainly does not; all that will do is frighten your kitten.

To discourage your kitten from doing something you don't want them to do, create a positive association around something they are allowed to do. For example, to stop them clawing your furniture, encourage the use of a scratching post. Make it an exciting activity centre by putting toys and some catnip around it, and praise when it’s being used.

More often than not, unwanted behaviour is simply the result of boredom. If your relationship with your kitten is fun and playful, and you spend time together, as well as providing plenty of stimulating toys, they won't have time to get into mischief.

Why on earth are they doing that?

So much for normal behaviour! Sometimes you'll spot your kitten doing things that are a bit bizarre. Here are some explanations.

Why does my kitten suck on things?

Sometimes you might spot your kitten sucking on a blanket or a toy. Some people have even woken up to find their kitten sucking their ears! Some breeds are more predisposed to this behaviour, and often kittens who have been weaned earlier are more likely to suck on things. Try rotating your kitten's toys to keep things interesting for them but if this behaviour becomes excessive, you should contact a qualified animal behaviourist.

Pica is when animals eat non-food items. Pica can be dangerous if cats are eating things that could block digestion, like fabric or string. Some houseplants can also be toxic to cats. It's normal for cats to eat grass, so don't worry about that. In rare cases, pica can be associated with certain diseases, so if you're concerned don't hesitate to contact your vet.

Why is my kitten sleeping so much?

Most cats sleep between 13 to 18 hours a day, though it depends on their personality and their age. Your kitten is probably sleeping even longer. In fact, when they're first born, kittens sleep most of the time.

Lots of people think cats are nocturnal but they’re not. They’re actually what’s known as crepuscular, which means that they’re most active at dusk and dawn. If you or your children notice that your cat doesn’t seem interested in interacting with you at other times of the day, it might be helpful to wait for these more natural playful times. 

You may have heard the expression: “Dogs have owners, cats have staff.” Well, this is a wise adage. Cats are happiest when living life on their own terms, so let them, as much as possible, choose when they play, explore and forage, and try to leave them in peace when they’re resting.

Reviewed by Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS