One of the most adorable things about kittens is the mischief they are able to get into - after all, kittens just want to have fun. Some of their antics are adorable at first, but when it's your carpet that the kitten shreds, your curtains they tear up, or your pillows they chew to death, it's not always that amusing. So what is a cat owner to do?
Well, the first thing is more of a "what not to do" - do not shout at your kitty cat! Remember, a domestic cat is still an animal, and will not understand what you are saying. Count to 10 and calm down, then firmly grasp your kitten, say "No" in a firm and clear voice and put the kitten in their bed - or in their safe zone if you have created one that they still use. This will tell them that this behavior is wrong and unwanted.
The next thing to do is to identify why your kitten has gotten into this particular misdeed - are they bored, feeling anxious, or are they falling prey to their hunter genes?
Usually it's a mix of boredom and practicing their hunting techniques that urges a kitten to cause the most trouble around the house. Whether you work outside the home or are now home more often than you were before, the busyness of everyday life may mean you don't play with your pet as often as they would like. This boredom causes them to find things like trailing plants, a table cloth string, or rolling apples, tempting. A cat, however, likes to hunt, and sometimes they will occasionally try to "kill" the odd cushion!
In this case, buying some cat toys will help teach your kitten what is acceptable to play with and what is not. A soft ball, not necessarily a small one - some kittens are happy enough to push something that is about half their size, but not too heavy - is a great toy. A ball made of crumpled paper is another good thing your kitten will want to play with - but be sure to crumple it gently because loud noises are likely to frighten a cat. Any toy that has been filled with catnip will keep your kitty amused for hours, but often the most fun toy for cats is a box with big holes cut in it that they can jump in and out of.
You can also get a scratching post that will help distract your kitty from scratching the furniture, and focus on the post instead. If you are buying a scratching post to go in your home, try to look for one made from the similar material as your furniture, so your cat will be able to scratch what feels like the furniture, without harming the actual furniture. If this is not available, go for something that feels like tree bark, as cats love to climb trees. Additionally, some stores sell catnip-infused scratching posts. These will not only be good for scratching, but will smell appealing to your cat as well.
However, if your kitty is still scratching furniture or destroying its surroundings even after you've gotten him fun toys to play with, there could be a deeper problem. Anxiety is a common, but hidden, disorder in cats, and this may be what is causing your cat to lash out. Especially now, your cat might be picking up on the stress you are feeling and could start to feel stressed as well.
Destructive behavior is the best sign of cat anxiety. If your kitty keeps tearing up your things, or has suddenly begun doing so when he wasn't destructive before, it is good to begin watching for other signs of cat anxiety so you can be sure if this is the root of the issue. In conjuction with destructive behavior, stressed cats may show the following symptoms:
- Frequent hiding
- 'Forgetting' their toilet training or missing the litter box
- Acting more aggressive, or simply different from what you are used to
- Meowing louder or more often
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Following people around the house (usually their favorite human)
If you are starting to see one or more of these signs, there is a good chance that your cat has anxiety. It is normal for cats or kittens to get anxious during these uncertain times: schedules have been interrupted and you are not coming and going at the same times anymore, and this is enough to unsettle your pet and cause anxiety.
That said, there are many ways to help your cat if they are feeling anxious. First, you may want to try giving your cat a blanket or shirt with your scent (something you won't mind him destroying), which should calm them down if you have to leave the house or if you are too busy to play with them regularly. This will help your kitty understand that you won't leave them forever, and they'll have a reminder of you while you're gone. You may also want to leave the TV or radio on while you are out, as a quiet house can feel lonely for your cat, and may push them to distract themself by destroying your couch. Voices from the radio or TV will make them feel less alone, and the background noise will soothe your pet.
Another idea is to schedule time to focus solely on playing with your kitty. This has a dual purpose: it introduces a new, favourable routine, and helps your kitty feel more loved and seen. This playtime will become a daily favorite for both you and your cat, and will help them feel more calm and happy. Lastly, if the problem seems more serious or it just won't go away, you may want to try a calming remedy. There are various pheromone diffusers or supplements available to help ease your kitty's anxiety, as well as natural calming sprays like our Pet Relax Anxiety Relief Spray. All you have to do to calm your kitty down is spray some of the remedy on your hands and rub it over your cat's fur, or spray it on their bed or blanket (perhaps the one with your scent!). Made of plants and flowers proven to relieve cat anxiety, Pet Relax may be just the thing your kitty needs to calm down and stop scratching or tearing at your furniture.
A mischievous kitten can be frustrating, but with good toys, soothing smells or the right environment, combined with simple patience, you can help stop them from destroying the wrong things, and give them ways to release their energy. Remember, no matter how it may seem, your cat does not intend to be mean when they do something they should not: it means that there's an issue, but now you know how to solve it!