DEAR JOAN: What can I do to teach my kitten not to grab and bite?
Kathy, Bay Area
DEAR KATHY: Oh those playful kittens. We are all guilty of seeing those adorable kittens, reaching out to scratch their round little tummies and coming away with a bloody hand. Even then, we don’t learn. We keep doing it, playing with the kitten that soon grows up to be a cat with even sharper claws and teeth.
The scratching and biting is natural for kittens. This is how they learn to hunt and to kill prey. As kittens, they also learn how hard they can scratch and bite by attacking their litter mates or their mom. If they go too far, they get swatted, so next time they ease off.
It’s important that when we play with kittens that we don’t allow them to use our hands or any other of our body parts as their playthings.
Whenever your kitten pounces, say “Ouch” loudly, get up and move somewhere the cat can’t reach you. That often means leaving the room — kittens are persistent. Stay away, ignoring the cat, for a few minutes, then come back in. If the kitten does it again, out you go.
It won’t take long for the kitten to learn that this behavior deprives it of the thing it loves most, you.
Never punish the cat for scratching, grabbing or biting. They won’t understand why and will instead just become afraid of you. Using a squirt of water or a loud noise can work, but only if you employ them immediately after the offense.
It’s OK for you and the kitten to play rough, just not with your body. Try tossing balls or fake mice; get some wands with toys on the ends of strings that will keep you a safe distance from those slashing claws.
DEAR JOAN: I badly need some advice on how to deal with a big patch of dead grass in my front yard that I believe is due to grubs.
Cherie, Bay Area
DEAR CHERIE: There’s not much you can do about grubs now. They head deeper into the soil as winter and cold temperatures arrive. They will slumber there until the soil warms in the spring, and then they will emerge as beetles and start the cycle over.
When the grubs are active, try using beneficial nematodes (you can get them online or at nurseries) that will attack the grubs and kill them. They are safe to use around other critters, pets and humans.
You also should remove the thatch and aerate the lawn, and check that you aren’t over irrigating your yard.
DEAR JOAN: For the second time after returning from a trip, we find our front lawn with big chunks of lawn turned over. It is probably raccoons, but how do I get them to stop?
The lawn was replaced two years ago and I don’t want to do that again any time soon. Any suggestions?
Joyce Wilkinson, Bay Area
DEAR JOYCE: Unfortunately, if you didn’t get rid of the grubs before laying the new lawn it was like putting a toupee on a scalp with dandruff.
Try the nematodes I mention in the question above yours. Getting rid of the grubs will get rid of the raccoon problem.