All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Puppy and Kitten Trouble

Dear Marie,
Shortly before Christmas, we decided to adopt two pets, a kitten for my twelve-year-old daughter and a puppy for my 10-year-old son. We wanted to get a kitten and a puppy to make sure that the two would get along and that was actually a good call. They get along great and they don’t seem to know that they are the least bit different from each other, which is funny because the puppy is a German Shepherd mix and is huge! But that doesn’t stop them from playing together and snuggling together. It’s adorable. But here’s the problem. They are constantly getting into trouble. They run up and down the hall and into all the rooms while they are playing and things get knocked over and broken. Individually, the kitten is climbing and scratching all the furniture and curtains. The puppy is gnawing on everything and anything. It’s getting to be a financial burden at this point. The kitten is even chewing things! Last week he chewed right through my husband’s phone charger cable. I don’t know how things got so out of control, but my kids can’t seem to manage their pets and I am at my wit’s end. Please help us.

Dear Jan,
I can hear your frustration loud and clear and I am happy you are asking for help. Many people in your shoes would just give up their pets so it’s good to know that you are looking for a way to fix the problem without taking such drastic measures.

Now let’s get to the problem. Puppies and kittens are blank slates. They don’t know any rules but are very smart and able to learn - and it’s never too early to teach good manners. However, it does take a lot of time and a lot of patience.

First, enroll your puppy in basic obedience. Keep in mind that the class is more for you and your kids than it is for your pet. You will all learn how to be consistent with the rules and that’s what your puppy (and your kitten) need. Practice everything you learn in class at your home. Everyone in the family should work with both pets as often as possible.

Of course, you won’t be teaching your kitten to do the traditional dog routine, but you can train your young cat to play on a scratching post instead of your curtains and sofas. And this is accomplished by everyone in the family taking some time to play with him at designated cat-friendly area(s).

Remember, young cats and dogs need to chew on things. Give them both something acceptable to satisfy this basic need. Demanding that they don’t chew at all is not realistic. So redirect them to something appropriate. Chew toys are great for this. And if you have certain personal items that seem irresistible to your pets (phone charging cables, expensive shoes, etc.), it might be a good idea to keep those items in places your pets can’t get to.

Cats need to drag their claws across suitable surfaces. In addition to scratching posts, you can place disposable scratchers in most of your rooms. These are small, inexpensive items that are available at most pet supply stores and if you get the kind scented with catnip, your kitty will happily use them instead of your home’s furnishings.

Puppies and kittens have lots of energy. But it comes in bursts. If you notice that your pets want to play, that’s a good time to stop what you are doing to play with them. Find an area that’s safe for rough and tumble activities. Take your dog outside for games involving running and chasing. Have someone stay indoors with your kitten. That person should use a feather toy or something similar to engage the little feline. Take turns. Everyone should play with all the animals at various times. You’ll probably notice patterns to when your pets want to play. This will work to your advantage and you can get your pets into a routine that you can count on.

Like all babies, energy bursts don’t last very long and soon your little guys are going to want to nap or rest. As they mature, they’ll require less playtime though that doesn’t mean you should cut it out completely. Keep your pets active throughout their lives for excellent physical and mental health; but enjoy the quiet time that will come with your pets’ maturity.

Believe it or not, kittenhood and puppyhood don’t last too long and if you begin training now, you’ll have some pretty well-behaved pets in no time. Just hang in there and remember: consistency is the key to success.