I’ve had so many comments and messages regarding Jupiter and his welfare that I thought I should give everyone an update: he’s doing fine. Better than fine! Jupiter’s lungs have completely cleared up and he’s growing like a weed and still sweet as can be (WHEN NOT BEING A NIGH UNSTOPPABLE AND DESTRUCTIVE TERROR!).
But having an animal is a responsibility; we must always remind ourselves of that. “He’s beautiful!”, and “I want one!”, have been common commentary. However, furbabies share certain similarities to children, and we shouldn’t undertake the parenting of one without a similar mentality. And Jupiter is a unique breed. Having a Maine Coon kitten is like having a supernaturally agile toddler whose hobbies are chewing cords, jumping into active showers and smashing things for the sheer delight of what chaos may come–noises don’t seem to scare him all that much, though he’s learned Daddy’s ‘don’t do that tone’, at least.
Learning how to be stern without being violent is always a challenge, too. I was spanked as a child, and I turned out okay, but animals will develop entirely different associations and understandings with negative human contact. This is common sense to most animal-parents, however, you should never hit an animal–not even a tap on the bum. Scruffing, the practice of grabbing a cat by the somewhat elastic skin at the back of the neck, should also be discouraged. When a mother cat does that, it’s done with razor-precision, and I doubt that many humans are a.) trained in the proper technique and spot at which to grab b.) in a state of mind where they should be scruffing when they do (since they’re probably pissed off at something the cat is doing). Don’t do that, since you’re not a mama cat.
When it comes to discipline, here’s what I’ve been practicing with this exceptionally rambunctious breed. If Jupiter is aggressively pursuing something–a cord, a shoelace, an object on the tv (Jupiter loves attacking images on the big screen)–I remove/ turn off said enticement. Is it annoying that I can’t play my video games or watch a show (Netflix’s new Castlevania is pretty dope) with my downtime? Sure. But being a parent means you sacrifice time and moments of pleasure for your (fur) child. So, countertops have been cleared, all cords have been tucked away, I have books plugging all the little crannies under entertainment cabinets and such where he wishes he could squeeze himself and cause trouble. Our house is essentially baby-proof, as any young animal’s environment should be.
If whatever he’s set his mind on hunting can’t be removed, and it’s an actual behaviour I wish to correct, I pick up and remove my furbaby, gently, and without saying anything (speech/ attention can trigger psychological reinforcement of the wrong kind). This rarely works on the first attempt, and he’s right back to whatever he was doing a second ago. But after the fourth or fifth try and rebuke, he’ll assuredly wander off and find a less hindersome diversion. Patience is key. Understanding that you cannot communicate with this creature the same way as you would a human is key.
And when I do, inevitably, lose my cool over something, a strong hand-clapping or low-angry tone, seems to halt his reign of terror. Having a squeaky mouse, a toy, or another distraction around is also great solution to correcting misbehaviour. The goal with animal parenting is to create a strong, parental bond between yourself and the animal, while allowing him to flourish as a beast–with playtime, hunting exercises and plenty of socialization.
I’m doing the best I can, and I want to give this little guy the best life he can possibly have. That’s all any parent wants, really, and there’s no formula for perfection, just whatever combination of wisdom, serenity and kindness you can manage at the time.
All my love,