One of my first mistakes after bringing a new kitten, Bud, home was failing to anticipate he’d get overnight hunger pangs — and that, if the little guy wasn’t successful rousing me by conventional means, he’d have no qualms about going nuclear.
For Buddy, that meant climbing up to the highest perch in my bedroom — a pair of studio monitors stacked on my desk — and dive-bombing onto my stomach like a kamikaze pilot trying to sink an aircraft carrier.
Short of getting punched in the face, it’s one of the worst ways to wake up, and I folded up like an accordion in a reflex reaction, heart beating like crazy and wondering what the hell just hit me. From that point on, I learned to leave a bowl of dry food for the little guy overnight. Not only did that solve the kitten kamikaze problem, but it meant fewer sleep interruptions in general.
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You’re Going To Lose Sleep
But make no mistake, when you get a new kitten you’re going to lose sleep, and that’s not the only sacrifice you’ll make. Kittens are cute, fluffy, playful and a lot of fun, but they’re also whirling balls of claws and teeth, spinning around your house like miniature tornados. No matter how much research you do online — and trust me, I did a LOT — they’re still full of surprises, and the more prepared you are, the better for you and your new kitten.
With that in mind, here are some things most new cat parents wish they knew beforehand:
– There will be a war waged on your feet every night when you’re sleeping. Kittens love to attack feet, with a repertoire that includes all the usual biting and scratching. Learn to tuck your feet in at night and keep ’em that way. Even if it’s a hot night in mid-summer, it’s key to up-armor your feet with a thick comforter.
– You’re not going to be able to keep them off your bed, so save yourself the trouble and let your kitten plant her flag. Your bed is hers now! But seriously, if you’re hell bent on preventing kitty from sleeping with you, you’re either going to spend the next several months sleeping in 20-minute spurts, or you will become intimately familiar with the plaintive, escalating cries of a kitten on the other side of your bedroom door.
Remember, kittens are babies. Whether you bring them home at 12 weeks or older, they’ll want that feeling of warmth and security they got from their mothers. Letting them crash with you not only comforts them, but it’ll save you the frustration of a losing battle against the inevitable. It’s also a great way to build a bond.
Negative Reinforcement Damages Your Relationship With Your New Kitten
– Don’t spray, and don’t yell. All that careful bonding and trust-building goes out the window the second you pick up a water bottle and spray your kitten for doing what kittens do. Instead, focus on creating environmental obstacles, or turning problem areas into less-than-pleasant tactile and olfactory experiences for your cat. That means double-sided tape on the spots where kitty likes to scratch the sofa, tin foil on the dining room table, and “act of God” deterrents like the irreplaceable Ssscat, which uses motion sensors and startles cats with a gentle puff of air when they climb onto kitchen counters and other places they shouldn’t be.
– Recognize that solving kitten problems usually involves a combination of changes instead of a quick fix. Say your little one is teething and won’t stay away from the wires running from your PC or TV to an outlet. Rubbing a bit of citrus on the wires — cats usually can’t stand the stuff — may not do the trick. But if you bind the wires neatly, coat them in citrus, *and* make it difficult for your kitten to get access to the wires by obstructing them, your problem will usually be solved. One obstacle might not convince your little feline friend to give up, but several? All but the most unusually stubborn cats will move on and find something better to do.
If It’s Fragile, Put It Away
– Stash your valuables. This usually goes without saying, but do not underestimate how easily kittens can get into things, and don’t doubt their extraordinary leaping ability. No shelf is too high for them to reach, no space is small enough for them to squeeze into. Within the first two weeks, my kitten had destroyed a wood-framed mirror by pulling it down off the wall. I still can’t comprehend the physics of a three-pound kitten accomplishing that act, but it happened. Likewise, my guitar — my beloved, midnight blue Les Paul — became a casualty of Bud’s curiosity one day when he knocked it over, causing the headstock to snap clean off the neck with the strings still attached. If I could hit the rewind button on life, I’d be sure to keep my beloved axe in its case instead of leaving it to the mercy of the terrible tabby!