Dear Lola,

I adopted a kitten from my local shelter just over six months ago. This is not my first cat and I have successfully managed to train all my previous kittens to follow simple rules – using the litter box, staying off kitchen counters, scratching only on the approved post, not climbing the curtains. Very normal cat training in my eyes! However, this kitten is proving to be untrainable. After six months of efforts, the kitten has resisted all of my gentle training and continues to damage furniture and use the bathroom wherever she pleases. I’ve used a spray bottle filled with water to discourage the bad behavior but I am otherwise out of ideas. What should I do?


Feline Familiar

Dear Feline Familiar,

Before we get to the heart of this matter, I do want to make a small confession. I chuckled, actually I laughed so hard my belly hurt, at your predicament. Not that your suffering is a laughing matter, but more so at the thought of your having ‘trained’ previous felines to do your bidding. I think the world of canines would agree with me when I say that felines only allow you to think they are doing your bidding.

In reality, you are being trained to cater to a feline’s every whim.

Don’t believe me? Let’s start with the first rule you train your felines on – using the litter box. Felines have an instinctive desire to bury their waste in the wild. However, they’ve allowed the silly human who feeds them to conclude that the feline must actually need assistance in learning how to use the restroom. As if they wouldn’t prefer to use the zen garden you had beautifully raked in anticipation of their arrival to the home. Instead of following their instincts, they find somewhere inconvenient to do their business, preferably on carpet or rugs which are not easily washable, and then allow you to ‘train’ them to use the litter box. You reward their efforts with effusive praise and an excessive number of treats. Meanwhile, the feline is absolutely delighted with the idea that you are now a pawn to do their bidding.

The phrase grinning like a Cheshire cat comes to mind.

In light of this new knowledge, you have only two options as far as I can see. The first will require you to make concessions when it comes to your feline and maybe tolerate a bit of temporary insanity before the feline agrees that the ‘training’ is complete. You have stated you are using a spray bottle to discourage incorrect behavior but you haven’t stated what positive guidance you are giving your new feline. Be sure to hand out plenty of treats when your feline does something you desire. Always follow this up with an extra special meal at his next feeding – it can really reinforce the desire to please. It is also important to lavish praise upon the feline as it speeds up the training process greatly.

For clarity, you are being trained to lavish praise and hand out treats.

Eventually your feline will deem your training complete. Some felines extend this period out for a bit longer than others, likely because they have a bit of a devil sitting on their left shoulder in addition to the one that naturally sits on their right. If none of these tactics work, you will need to fall back to your second option.

Adopt a canine and enjoy the good life of kisses and cuddles.

No zen litter garden required.


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