Accidents happen but may be prevented with knowledge - it is heartbreaking to say the least to hear of a tragic loss or injury.
Many people are so enamored with their new cat or kitten that they give it a wide-eyed, unbroken
stare, little realizing that they are communicating a desire to attack it, eat it, or drive it from their
territory. With many species of wild and domestic animals, communication is mostly through body language. In fact, experts even tell us that human communication is 70 percent gestures and expressions.
The most important gestures are the blink, and the blink/ignore. The blink/ignore is used for a cat
who is new to the environment or is uncomfortable. Look the animal in the eye, give a slow, deliberate blink, and then turn your head and body away from her and think to yourself, I am totally ignoring this animal. The blink is a sign of territorial acceptance, an assurance that you do not have an agenda. The ignore grants the animal space. If the cat has been in the environment for some time, a slow blink when you come in is much like a greeting/acceptance/reaffirmation. Cats blink at us often. They must think us quite dense for not returning their blinks.
~The Pick Up/Put Down Technique~
This is a cat, not a teddy bear. It has the opinion, as we all do and should, that it owns itself. The deepbasis for abuse is someone else demonstrating that they own you. If you were at a Safeway, and a huge person you didn't know ran to you, picked you up, and smothered your face with sloppy kisses, you would be absolutely appalled. Cats feel this way if a person does this who they have no relationship with.
True story from my breeding friend - A visitor came to visit a kitten that was well social. They held
the kitten and when the kitten squirmed slightly, the person visiting did not put it down. The kitten
meowed, "Please put me down". Again, the person did not respond. Finally the kitten ran to hide and did not come out until the person left. A week later the kitten was shy and did not come near at first, but, forgiving creatures they are, slowly began to make overtures. The girl waited until the kitten crawled into her lap. She petted the kitten but did not confine it. The kitten persisted until she did pick it up. Immediately the kitten, with a slight squirm, asked to be put down. The girl picked up the signal and placed her on the carpet. The kitten asked to be picked up again, and this time did not ask to be put down. That kitten went home with that girl, much to everyone's delight.
One of the most important things a small animal wants to know is, if I consign my body to this huge
hulking creature, will they free me if I ask? If the answer is no, your cat will not want to be
affectionate with you. If the answer is yes, your pet, whether it is a cat, a bird, a horse, a dog, will
feel confident around you.
You can shorten the time it takes for your pet to feel comfortable with you by doing these things:
Pick the kitten up, give it a quick kiss, put it down BEFORE it asks, and turn and do a complete
ignore. A few minutes later, repeat this. You will basically be telling your little creature that the
pickups are temporary. They will end. It is not your intent to confine. You will notice your kitten
becoming more comfortable being picked up, and you can hold it for slightly longer. ALWAYS put a
cat down if she asks immediately. Many people wish they had a lapcat and don't realize their actions taught their cat not to be a lapcat early on.
~Hiss vs Purr~
I heard of a lady that attempted to quiet a distressed cat by saying, "Shhhh"; and the cat was becoming more and more frantic. If you wanted to comfort someone, you wouldn't say, "DANGER
DANGER!!" Any sound which a cat hears it will immediately translate as danger or hostility.
This is why they hate vacuums, hair driers, and anything that sounds like escaping air. If one cat
crosses the boundaries of another, the insulted cat will threaten and say, "Sssssss". This tells the
intruder they are over the line and in imminent danger of a whack. If a cat jumps up on a counter, and you say, "Get down Puddy", it won't know what you are saying. If you hold an unblinking stare and say, "Sssss", it will. Conversely if you roll your tongue quietly like a purr, this will comfort or reward a cat.
~Discipline vs Love~
The most important principles for establishing boundaries with a cat, or any animal, or even your
children for that matter, is that relationship must come before behavioral modification. You are not
programming a machine; you are opening up intelligent thought to a being. You want this to be an
aspect of relationship and a bonding experience, rather than being demeaning and destructive.
You are not "training" a cat to stay off the counter; you are establishing the counter as your territory which you do not want intruded upon. There is a HUGE difference in this. "Training" assumes the cat is a programmable machine and it demeans them. Establishing a boundary assumes intelligent thought and this enriches a cat's life. Cats will get this. To have relationship exceed discipline means you are going to have to be patient. When the cat jumps up on the counter, say, "Psssst" softly, then walk over and lift the cat down. Then, when it is down, purr to it, stroke it, thank it, and walk away. Do this many times, and each time the Pssst gets a bit louder. Eventually, the cat will get the idea. I don’t use water guns we use air duster’s (they sound like hissing). The way cats maintain boundaries in their prides is an increasingly loud verbal warning accompanied by an unbroken stare. Eventually if these warnings go unheeded, one cat cuffs the other. Then put the cat down. Once a cat understands your intent, you will be able to lock a stare and say Pssst from across the room, and the cat will heed you. If done correctly, your cat will have a deepened respect for you - you are a powerful creature, but your requests are consistent and
reasonable, and if heeded, you don't use your power. Cats get this.
~Children In The House~
If you have children, you need to teach these concepts to them or they, meaning to love, will torture a cat. I have read that statistically, children who are raised with animals have better self-images. But I think this far underestimates the wholeness animals bring to the lives of children. Animals can teach many things and can fill our children with love if the basics of human/animal relations are shown to kids early on.
If you have a cat or multiple cats in the house, YOU need to be the alpha, or your cats will not be
happy. Cats love a great alpha. It's been interesting to be a part of a cat pride where the members are not fixed and there is a working social structure much like it would be in the wild. If an alpha queen holds her position with too much force, the personality of the pride is more tense. I have seen some wondrous alpha cats who work hard not just to keep order, but to make sure everyone feels comfortable and safe. The head queens will not let pride member's fight. If a fight breaks out, they will rush in and growl, lock stares, and if the fighters do not desist, they will attack and physically break it up. They want the environment safe and quiet for kittens. I had one alpha queen who would be the first to greet guests and visiting dogs. She would sniff the dog, and as the frightened members of the pride looked on, she would turn her back on the dog and sit down with it directly behind her back (an ignore). The whole pride would relax and resume their activities.
~The Core Attitude~
What you think of your animal will determine the level of success and depth of your relationship. We don't truly own any creature. If an animal lives with you, it is your responsibility to provide for it and in turn, you are graced with its presence. That is the trade. But no being on the planet may own the soul of another being. The animal is who it is. It needs space to make decisions; it needs time to form relationships. The fact that an animal does not have as big a brain as we do does not mean it is locked in perpetual childhood. Pet animals mature faster than people do. They regard themselves as adults. An animal that is devalued and forced will retreat. An animal that is pandered to and spoiled will disrespect you. If you have the right attitude about animals, it will affect every subtle move you make around them. You will be giving them their space and encouraging them, while communicating about and gently maintaining your own boundaries. Animals are strongly drawn to humans who have this balance.
Cats look to people to be the Alpha, to love and encourage, maintaining reasonable boundaries consistently, and never to confine or condescend. People who can do this are blessed with their animals opening themselves up completely in love and trust. These are the basic principles for success in relationships with other people too. It is hard to quantify the value of having animals in your home with you and with your children. They are living treasures.
Once you have your new furry family member home, you are a new parent! Here are some tips:
Kittens have a lot of energy so they will need lots of playtime - which will create connection with you and will tire them out! They will then crash and burn and if you play with them on your lap, they will typically fall asleep!
Kittens will usually mellow out after being altered and again around their first birthday.