Raising a smart cat

Understanding the developmental stages of cats will go a long way toward raising an intelligent feline.

Most of the people who call my cat shelter are looking for a kitten … the younger the better. The usual

The belief is that the little ones will bond more successfully with the new family or owner, and that they will more easily learn the routine in their new home.

However, the next question is always: “Are you trained to use the litter box?”

Somehow people hope that what is basically a baby is well trained to minimize any potential for

accidents, as well as socialized for human contact, but naive enough to fit in with members of a new family, with no problems to solve.

This is quite a difficult task for a baby!

Human babies are expected to wear diapers until they are about 2 years old, and they are not expected to know many words until they are about 5 years old. However, kittens are expected to be “potty trained” ahead of nature’s established timeline. (Fortunately, this behavior is quite natural.) Then they are expected to learn things quickly so that they bond with the new family and their home routines. In fact, they are expected to know things that they cannot yet understand. Some people think that instincts are a form of intelligence in animals. In a way, that might be a valid concept, but animals don’t move solely by instinct. Their ability to learn is affected by the conditions in which they must live.

When we consider the normal developmental stages of the kitten as it grows into a cat, perhaps one can learn to be patient with their “new baby” at home:

From birth to 2 weeks, kittens’ eyes barely open, usually around 10 days. They follow the sound and are completely dependent on their mothers. If they separate from her now, they will learn slowly in life and will often be aggressive towards people and other pets.

During the third week, they can locate things with their sight and smell, especially their mother.

Four weeks: the sense of smell is well developed, as is hearing. They can walk quite well and start playing with their littermates.

Five weeks – They are now playing vigorously, which is part of their schedule to learn the various skills they will need as adults, such as jumping, stalking, and running. At this point, they are also learning to use their feet, as cats are masters of balance and grip. Its claws are essential equipment now. They also begin to groom themselves during this stage, as well as others. Shared toilet is a social mechanism that helps them learn to bond with others. Taking the kitten away from its mother and siblings now disrupts this process and they may not learn to build relationships. This may explain why some cats never accept a companion or a new pet into the home later in life. They never learned that skill!

From 7 to 14 weeks is the time when they are most active, where playing is not just for fun, but to learn the valuable skills that they will need as adults. This is a critical time in a kitten’s life, and appropriate toys are essential if she’s not playing with a littermate. Separation from mother and siblings at this stage is very common, and new owners must understand the essential use of playtime, grooming, and gentle handling.

From 3 to 6 months of age, kittens learn about the “totem”, that is, their social classification. They can become aggressive if necessary to survive due to rough handling by humans and / or other pets, such as larger dogs or cats that may view them as intruders.

At this age, kittens can be considered “teenagers,” a time when they experience new feelings, especially those associated with the onset of puberty. If they are not spayed or neutered at this point, they will begin to try to dominate others in the home, including humans.

This is normal and is very necessary in “nature” to survive. But your home is not a wild place … or it shouldn’t be … and dominance shouldn’t be necessary to survive. Right now, they should completely trust their humans, but they must earn it. Cats, more than dogs, will not respect a human who mistreats them. They will become distant, live up to the perception that cats are distant, and may even become aggressive towards all or most members of the household.

Treating a new kitten with respect, gentleness, and love, along with proper nutrition, will result in a loving, well-adjusted, and intelligent cat!

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