What’s cuter than one kitten learning manners? Several kittens learning how to “touch,” “sit” and wear a harness with pride! After all, puppies have access to all sorts of classes, so why not kittens? By exposing kittens who are 16 weeks and younger to new experiences, they’ll be on their way to becoming confident and well-adjusted adult cats.
Ariel Stephens and Sarah Welsh, both from the San Francisco SPCA, spoke about the importance of setting kittens up for success during a session at the Animal Care Expo. Stephens, a training programs manager, and Welsh, a feline behavior associate, spoke about their experience starting up their own program called Kitten Kindergarten.
During Kitten Kindergarten, adopters learn the proper way to play with kittens, how to handle a cat, carrier desensitization, how to trim nails, harness and leash training and litter box management. Kittens also are exposed to new people, smells, sights and sounds during the course, which includes three one-hour classes.
Additional benefits include more adoptions (some attendees adopted another kitten for their kitten), no kitten graduate has been returned and the classes have created a post-adoption bond with the shelter and adopters.
Stephens and Welsh hope that other shelters and rescue organizations will follow their lead in offering kitten classes. The courses are not difficult to start, and many of the supplies that are needed — such as sheets, x-pens and food puzzle toys — can be used repeatedly. Other supplies like litter, spoons and food trays will need to be replaced. They recommend instructors have a well-rounded background in behavior and be comfortable with public speaking. While having two instructors is nice, it’s not necessary and volunteers can also be involved.
It’s up to the shelter or rescue organization to set the health requirements. Stephens and Welsh decided that kittens who had at least two of their booster shots, one deworming and tested negative for FeLV could participate. Each kitten needs to be examined before class to ensure there are no signs of illness.
It’s important to have a practice session with kittens and volunteers. Here instructors decide on the flow of the classes and work out any kinks. Basic marketing such as flyers, adding the classes to your website, alerting new adopters about the course and promoting on social media and in your newsletters should be enough to drum up interest. Online registration is nice, but over the phone can be done as well.
For a look at the kitten kindergarten course, head over to the San Francisco SPCA class page to get an idea on how they present the class.
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