on June 26, 2009
Posted in Behavior Management
Kersti Seksel, a veterinary behaviorist from Australia, opened her first “Kitty Kindy” nearly a decade ago to accommodate kittens aged between 7 and 14 weeks. Since then, such kitten classes have slowly spread across the USA. Such classes give kittens the opportunity to interact with their owners, other people and other cats, in a playful way and also help to stop any unwanted behavior issues from forming.
In the USA such classes are offered to kittens aged between 8 and 15 weeks by animal behaviorists, veterinarians, and animal shelters. Before attending, the kittens need to be current on their vaccinations and receive the approval of their veterinarian. They also need to have tested negative for both feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
Most classes are modeled after Dr. Seksel’s teachings as well as from the American Association of Feline Practitioners feline behavior guidelines. The purpose of these classes is to help a kitten become accustomed to other pets and people, as well as a carrier. It also teaches the kitten’s owners how to properly care, feed, handle and play with their kittens. Other subjects that are discussed is diet and grooming, litter box training and scratching on furniture.
Just like most other pets, kittens go through an early development stage, between 8 and 15 weeks, in which they trust everything and everyone in their environment. This is the perfect time to help your kitten bond with members of your family and to learn his or her boundaries.
Arden Moore, the editor of Catnip Magazine from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, says:
“None of us want to find our cat ducked under the bed when we have to take her to the clinic. With something like kitty kindergarten, you’re starting off on the right paw, if you will. You’re showing your cat that the carrier is a safe, welcoming place. The car is no big deal. And the veterinarian’s office is no big deal. You’re getting them used to being handled by different people and safely introduced to new environments.”
By helping providing your kitten with proper socialization to new experiences, people, pets and situations, you are essentially guaranteeing that your kitten will grow up to be a very confident, social cat that is not afraid of being picked and handled, or of trips in their carrier. They will also be more patient and calms during veterinary or grooming visits as well. Cats who have attended kitten classes when they were young are less skittish or nervous around strange people and pets, including dogs.
Whether you are new cat owner or an experienced one, kitten classes will be beneficial to both you and your kitten on a variety of levels. First time kitten owners will be able to learn proper feeding, litter box cleaning, and playing tactics. Those cat owners, who are more experienced, will be able to brush up on their knowledge of kitten and cat behavior in order to continue socializing their kitten properly.
If you are interested in enrolling your kitten into a kitten class, your first step should be your veterinarian’s office. Most classes are run by veterinarians or their staff members. Moore says, “It’s a great way to put a cat in a fun environment when they visit the vet, not just for the dreaded vaccinations.”
If your veterinarian does not run any classes, your next step would be to contact your local animal shelter, humane society or cat rescue. Most of these types of associations approve of kitten classes because they encourage the proper and healthier interaction between cat owners and kittens, thereby reducing the amount of kittens that are abandoned or relinquished back to the shelters. “Shelters really love it,” Moore says. “It’s helping kittens get socialized and adopted.”
Other resources include online websites that have been created by leading cat behaviorists. These websites usually have a lot of valuable information listed on them to be able to either search for your kitten class or to have one requested by a professional in your area.
The American Association for Feline Practitioners have a website called CatVets, where they maintain feline behavior guidelines that can help you in choosing the perfect class for you and your kitten.
By taking the time now to enroll you kitten into a kitten class, you will be providing your kitten with a great start in life. Such classes are able to teach owners how to mentally and physically stimulate their kittens so that they can become healthy and confident cats.
These classes are proof of our understanding of the wants and needs of kittens and help create the perfect relationship with our cats.
Photo Credit: Hitchster
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan