Kitten kindergarten more than just adorable - it could keep cats out of shelters

A Kitchener, Ont., animal trainer is launching kitten kindergarten classes to teach cats basic commands and obedience, as well as to socialize the kittens so they make better pets.

'Cats seem to be a very disposable pet,' animal trainer says

Kittens, like this one named Yohan who was at the Winnipeg Human Society earlier this year, should have some kind of training and socialization, a Kitchener animal trainer says. That's why she's starting kitten kindergarten classes. (Winnipeg Humane Society)

Kitten kindergarten might sound like the most adorable classroom experience ever, but a local animal trainer says it's much more than a cute gimmick. 

"Cats seem to be a very disposable pet," Ellie Ross, owner of Wag and Train in Kitchener, told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris.

"I think part of that is because there has been no investment in an education [for] the cat," Ross said.

"When we look statistically at dogs in shelters, on average, 74 per cent of the dogs that end up in shelters never had any education. They never went to any school, they never attended puppy class, and as a result their behaviour was undesirable."

The same goes for cats – 100 per cent in shelters have not been trained, Ross said. But they can be.

That's why she's offering kitten kindergarten, which is similar to puppy classes where the kittens will be taught basic obedience, commands and will be socialized with other kittens.

Cats are "extremely intelligent," Ross said.

"If there was an investment into the time and the education, the bond would increase, the animal would be of more value – and I don't mean in terms of monetary.

"If you had a cat that doesn't jump up on the counter, and isn't licking your butter dish, and isn't crapping outside of the litter box and isn't difficult to put eye drops in if it gets an infection and all of these sorts of things," she said.

"You have a cat that's kind of cool."
Ellie Ross is the owner of Wag and Train in Kitchener. She will be offering kitten kindergarten and chicken classes next spring. (Craig Norris/CBC)

Kindergarten fosters positive experiences

Kitten kindergarten is a great idea for new cat owners, said Shannon Gowland, a veterinarian at the Ontario Veterinary College clinic at the University of Guelph.

From her perspective, anything that makes it easier to give the cat medication, take it in the car or get its annual physical exam is a good thing.

Socialization is important, which is what the class will also offer.

"They should meet different people – they should meet men, they should meet kids," Gowland said. "Kitten kindergarten is great because they can have interactions with other kittens, so they can have positive experiences, fabulous treats, fond handling while in the presence of other cats."

To avoid the headache of trying to get cats to the vet, Gowland also recommends practicing travelling with the cat. If you're going a drive, take them along.

Start with just putting a treat in a crate and letting the kitten go in and get it. Eventually move up to taking the cat for a short drive. Doing this at a young age will make it easier to do when the cat is older.

Chickens can be trained, too

For those considering getting backyard chickens, Ross said it might be beneficial to also have your chickens take a course.

Kitchener recently passed a bylaw allowing residents to raise backyard chickens. 

They're highly trainable, said Ross. And she should know; she once taught a chicken named Daisy to do the Cha Cha.

"I had the best time with this chicken," she said. "It wanted to learn."

That course, which will be offered next summer, will teach people how to get a chick from the hatchery and how to care for it – including what's the best feed and how to check for parasites – and the basics on how to train a chicken.


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