I feel sad that cats are very misunderstood by some people. All too often, their natural behaviors are misinterpreted to be bad, punishable crime. They don’t see it as wrong, and therefore they don’t understand punishment or why it is happening to them!
For example, someone asking about how to stop a kitten from biting and scratching people often gets bad advice, suggesting all sorts of punishments. Here are just a few:
Yelling at the kitten, grabbing him by the scruff and holding him up or pinning him down, blowing in his face, hitting him, ‘bopping’ him on the head or the nose, holding his tongue or paws until he cries, squirting water or another liquid at him, rattling coins in a tin, shutting him in a cage… the list is endless and none of those things solve any problems, they only make the kitten nervous around the person doing it to them!
Some of those suggestions are quite dangerous too! Kittens may seem tough but they are quite fragile; cats bruise easily and they never forget! ‘Bopping’ a kitten’s nose would feel to us like being punched hard on our noses, it brings tears to our eyes. Squirting water or any other liquid could cause problems if it went into the kitten’s eyes or ears and into his nose or mouth. This could set off an upper respiratory infection or worse.
Kittens, just like children, learn by kindness, patience and distraction. No one would punish a baby human for exploring his world by biting; they would give him something safe to bite upon. This is exactly the same as it should be for kittens.
Never play with bare hands with a kitten, always have cat toys around and if he goes to bite, gently put a toy by his mouth or throw it for him. Always praise him when he bites and plays with the toy. If he goes to scratch either a person or anywhere at all he shouldn’t scratch, simply lift him gently to his scratching post and praise him when he uses it.
The same applies to a cat jumping on kitchen worktops or anywhere else he is not allowed, gently lift him off and distract him until he learns which places are out of bounds.
With kindness, patience and distraction, kittens and even older cats learn quickly and pleasantly. They don’t lose their trust in humans, and in return, grow fond and learn to love instead.