Q: I love her with all my heart, but my 9-month-old kitten is driving me crazy. She jumps on kitchen counters, the refrigerator and stove. Spraying her with water, making loud noises and slapping her behind doesn't help. I'm a senior citizen and she's my only companion. I couldn't bear to give her away, but it may come to that. Please help.
A: I believe you do love your cat, but believe me, when I tell you: Cats climb; it's what they do, especially kittens. Maybe it has been a while since you've had a kitten. It's important that you offer alternative places for climbing, encouraging your cat to go there using treats and praise, and perhaps providing a bed in a sunny place.
Consider a compromise. After all, maybe it's not so bad to let your cat scale the top of your fridge. Perhaps, there's a windowsill in the kitchen or another place she can climb.
Offer toys. This doesn't have to be an expensive proposition. To a kitten, a wine cork, bottle cap, empty box or pingpong ball are superb toys. It's important to rotate the toys so they don't become old and boring. It's also great to actively play with your kitty, using a Cat Dancer or another interactive toy. Active kitties may love A Mouse in the House. Don't worry, it's not the real thing: A toy mouse races along a track on a toy living room backdrop. There's a squeak before the mouse emerges, so cats learn to run to check out the noise. The mouse is on a timer, so some kitties even learn to push a button to make the rodent appear. Mouse in the House is $70, available at some pet stores and www.catdancer.com, or call (920) 426-4330.
Legendary veterinary behaviorist Dr. R.K. Anderson, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Minneapolis, says that attempting to scare your kitty or spanking her will diminish her trust in you.
Spraying her with water could work when you're in the room. However, if you walk away, the cat may scamper on the counter for grins. Your kitty could be bouncing around on objects, in part, to get your attention — and it's working! Triggering your distress might be a game for your pet.
Anderson suggests ignoring your kitty when she climbs where you don't want her to go. In addition, place double-stick tape or Sticky Paws (manufactured sticky tape, available at pet stores and online) on countertops and other places you want her to avoid. Cats detest feeling stickiness on their paws. If all else fails, motion detectors are available that spray citronella in your cat's direction; one example is called Ssscat (available at www.ssscat.com and some pet stores). Also, remove tasty morsels from the stove top and counters.
Send questions to Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.