24 February 2021
This is a period that many first-time cat owners don’t anticipate for their kitten as they often expect cats to only go through 4 life stages: kitten, adult, senior and geriatric. However, cats go through 5 distinct life stages: kitten, junior, prime, mature and senior. The junior stage, or adolescence, for cats, begins at approximately six months old. During this period, your teenage kitten will continue to grow physically and cognitively until they reach the age of two years old. Like human adolescents, cats will experience a shift in personality. Throughout the transition, cat owners will notice behavioural changes that will need to be addressed. Understanding and managing your teenage cat’s behaviour will not only help you deal with their antics but will set both of you up for long-term success. Here are some tips and tricks to get you prepared for your kitten’s adolescence.
Even though your kitten may not yet be fully grown, adolescence is when your kitten will reach sexual maturity. During this stage, the most notable signs of a cat reaching puberty are behavioural. If unsterilized, most cats will become very affectionate, even demanding, by persistently rubbing against you (or objects such as furniture), rolling on the floor, and constantly wanting attention. If you have a male kitten, expect them to exhibit signs of spraying or urinating in particular corners of the house to mark their territory.
Female cats will also urinate more or even spray urine on vertical objects when they are in heat. This heat cycle is referred to as estrous. If your female cat is urinating or spraying on objects, she is trying to inform other cats of her reproductive status. Another sign of sexual maturity is that most cats will also become very vocal; crying, meowing, and yowling are often loudly heard from cats in heat. Getting your cat spayed or neutered is the best way to prevent or eliminate these unwanted behaviours. Additionally, getting them spayed or neutered can also help reduce the risk of uterine infections, testicular cancer, and breast cancers while also decreasing hormonal stress and behaviours associated with unsterilized cats.
Tip: If you have an outdoor cat, ensure that your cat is microchipped and has a proper means of identification with an ID tag. Cats who aren’t spayed/neutered are more likely to roam away from home to find a potential mate, especially male cats. Do not let your cat outdoors until they are spayed or neutered first.
During adolescence, your cat will begin to have stronger and longer claws, which can result in injury to you and your furniture. Scratching is not only a natural act but a necessary one as well. There are a few reasons why a cat scratches:
Because this behaviour is instinctive to cats, you don’t want to discourage it entirely. Instead, the goal should be to get your cat to scratch acceptable objects such as a scratching post. We recommend providing your cat with multiple scratching posts in different areas of your home. You may want to sprinkle some catnip and reward your cat when they use the scratching post to encourage them to use it. This will increase the likelihood that your furniture and carpeting will be left alone. In addition to getting a scratching post, trimming their claws every two to three weeks can also help enormously the scratching problem. Make sure to give your kitty a tasty treat whenever they use the scratching post correctly.
Play aggression is the most common type of aggressive behaviour that cats direct toward their owners or household items. Typical predatory and play behaviours include stalking, chasing, attacking, running, ambushing, pouncing, biting and more. It is usually in this stage where adolescent cats will begin to test their independence (and your patience!) from time to time. To better endure their teenage attitude, it’s essential to get them to exert all their energy through play and training.
Similarly, adopting another kitten may also help by keeping your kitty company while also allowing them to have a playmate. They’re more likely to burn off their energy by playing together than destroying your furniture out of pure boredom. If getting another kitten is not an option, we suggest using lots of interactive toys to keep them busy. Regular interactive play not only burns off their energy but also decreases many unwanted behaviours by keeping them mentally stimulated. Remember to praise your kitty whenever they show any interest in the toy you give them. Don’t tantalize your kitten with your fingers or toes; always place a toy between you and your cat during play so they do not pick up unwanted behaviours.
It’s not uncommon for cat owners to feel frustrated when their cats wake them up at night by meowing, scratching or knocking objects off the table and shelves. Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk since nighttime is when their prey is most active. Fortunately, there are a few ways to manage your kitty’s nighttime antics:
Kitten adolescence requires patience and dedication— Remember, your kitty will outgrow this. When in doubt, you can always contact your vet for further professional advice.