Playing to Learn/KWE Smackdown
We all know that children learn from play, but did you know that dogs and cats also learn important behaviors and skills through play. One of the reasons why it is not a good idea to take a puppy or kitten away from his mom and littermates too soon, is that they have a lot to learn from each other. It is especially true with littermates. They all watch what mom does and try to do it too. They learn by watching her use the litterbox, how to stay safe, and how to hunt and kill for food if they have too.
Kittens and puppies learn from each other how to be cats and dogs. They learn how to climb and fight and when enough is enough. They also learn how to eat big kid food, and what noises to make in each situation. They also watch each other try new things and decide if they want to follow or go their own way.
Sometimes they learn things we don’t really want them too, but that is why it is important to interact with your fur kids as much as possible when they are younger so you can correct behaviors that are not acceptable to you. Puppies need to learn not to jump on people, and kitten need to learn that the kitchen counter is off limits. Some behaviors are easier to fix or redirect than others. Sometimes it just takes time for your fur kid to realize they don’t need to do that anymore.
We rescued a feral mama who had 6 kittens in our house. Once the kittens were old enough to start moving around and exploring the world (our guest room transformed to a kitten nursery) they watched Mama Elijah eat and then try to cover up what she didn’t want to finish. All six of those kittens learned to cover their food. With the wrong bowls that can be a big mess. They also watched their big foster brother Buddy scratch up the furniture. My husband didn’t care that his chair was being torn up but as soon as I could, I put a tall scratching post in front of the side of the chair that Buddy was tearing up and he was redirected to the post. If you catch that behavior early, you can slowly move the post to a less cumbersome spot and the cat with still stay away from the furniture, but if you wait too long, you may have to live with scratching post all over and the occasional torn up chair.
There are many different strategies to correct behavior, but violence of any kind is not the way. In the coming weeks I will do an article on specific strategies that I have used to correct behavior and I will give you the low down on what works best. Bringing anyone new into your home takes patience and compromise, so before you bring your own Buddy home, think about where you are willing to compromise and where you draw the line. Then you just have to be consistent.