Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Frame of Mind 8/2/06 Kitten Kindergarten

Timmy was fast losing interest in the lessons at kitten kindergarten.

The eight-week-old kitten, sitting in the lap of owner Kathy Novy, looked up backward into her face and yawned. Then he looked back into the room, his eyes wide, his ears up.

Dr. Jennifer Malin ran the class in the reception area of The Cat Practice, 323 Chicago Ave., explaining to the three owners gathered together how to best handle their kittens and how to enrich their home environment.

"With cats early on, you want to expose them to as many situations as possible, including people who are not members of the family," Malin said.

At this point, Timmy's attention was drawn to the floor, where there were a variety of items a curious kitten could get himself interested in.

An unused box of litter was stationed in one corner, a tall scratching pole and cat scratchers, one inclined and one flat, in the middle of the room. There was an empty paper bag and a couple of pillows to lie on.

Timmy, stretching out one paw, began a tentative exploration of how to get down to the floor. Novy, not ready to let him go just yet, repositioned him on her lap. But it wasn't long before he was fidgeting again, and eventually, on the floor, sniffing first at the litter box and then around the rest of the room.

June 11 was the first kitten kindergarten class offered by Malin, three owners and four kittens on hand.

"I think, historically, people have always assumed that cats are going to do what they do regardless of anything that people might want them to do," Malin said.

"We sort of see that there's a great need for people to learn about cat behavior and what cats need in order to be kept healthy and properly socialized and to fit in with the family that happens to be caring for them."

Malin offered such lessons as how to trim cat toenails, how to place cats into carriers and how to properly handle kittens. The course lasts two weeks, but Malin plans on offering other classes to people once the first session finishes.

"We really are also teaching the owners just as much as we're trying to teach the cat," Malin said.

-Chris LaFortune

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