The cat is a naturally clean animal who, in adult life, tends to almost ‘bust’ rather than displease. If it makes a mess for any reason other than enforced confinement, don’t delay in consulting your veterinary surgeon.
A kitten may be quickly house-trained by providing a Utter-tray filled with sand, dry earth or, better still, specially prepared cat litter available from most pet shops and chemists. Put kitty on the litter-tray after each meal and/or mistake and it will soon adopt the tray as its special toilet. But you must clean it out every day; otherwise, puss won’t use it; and, when disinfecting, don’t use carbolic, which is dangerous for cats. When puss is old enough to go out of doors the tray can be discarded. However, many flat dwellers have a litter-tray as a permanent fixture. You don’t have to have a garden to keep a cat!
Your pet must be trained not to sharpen its claws on the furniture by shouting a loud ‘NO each time it starts to do so. If it is able to get into the garden it will most likely use a tree. If you are an apartment dweller, a scratching post may be bought from a pet shop.
Incidentally, you must never, ever, smack a cat – not to be confused with a playful pat in fun. Punishment of this type may cause the pet serious injury. And it won’t serve your purpose. The cat will merely be resentful.
Having had a good meal, a short sleep and used the litter tray, the kitten will go out and about looking for trouble. This may include scratching the furniture or digging at the carpet. These bad habits should be discouraged from the outset. If necessary a short piece of wood, particularly pine with the bark still on, should be offered as a scratching post; an alternative is to tack some sacking-round a post. All misdemeanours should be dealt with by scolding rather than smacking. Kittens soon learn a disciplinary tone of voice and will respond to it. In addition, they dislike sudden noises like hand-clapping and this will often frustrate a stealthy creep towards food on the table or in the larder.
It is commonly thought that cats cannot be trained. If a kitten is taught early enough it can be made to chase balls and even retrieve them and to enjoy other games like racing along and leaping into paper bags or through encircled arms. It is not unusual, particularly on the continent of Europe, to see kittens being taught to walk on a lead attached to a collar. A collar is quite acceptable, provided that it has a section of elastic in it to allow the collar to pull over the head if it gets caught in a tree branch. A collar has the further advantage of being able to accommodate an identity tag.
Unlike that of dogs, there are very few do’s and don’ts in the training of cats. Their instinct to use a litter tray or a corner of the garden makes house training very easy. Sometimes however it is necessary to persuade a cat to avoid making holes in the vegetable garden or among favourite flowers. This is best done in the early stages by using the litter box. This should be moved nearer and nearer to the door, then put outside, and finally placed in a corner of the garden where you wish the cat to continue using the natural soil. This will get the training off to a good start and develop habits which, hopefully, will last a lifetime. It is unhappily impossible to train cats not to cross main roads as their natural curiosity overcomes even their built-in fear of strange places.