Signs of mental retardation

This forum is for cat lovers seeking everyday advice and suggestions on health-related issues. Remember, however, that advice on a public forum simply can't be a substitute for proper medical attention. Only your vet can say assuredly what is best for your cat.


Purred: Mon Sep 28, '09 7:10pm PST 
Hello All, I was curious as to signs of mental retardation in cats/kittens. London is my first kitten and aside from the typical kitten weirdness he does seem to exhibit some odd behaviors.

The main reason I ask is it doesn't seem as if he is learning from his mistakes, or between good behavior and bad. When he does something naughty I usually squirt him with a bit of water, when good he get praise. However he doesn't listen, and 5 minutes later is back to the same behavior that had him licking himself dry moments before. This cycle is endless.

Also when he's feeling frisky and decides to play with Kingston and she hisses to tell him she's had enough he will continue to persist. No matter how many paws to the face, or hisses he receives he will not let up until I show him something else.

All of this is very frustrating and I'd find some calm in knowing it's not all in my head.


He's no- Sherlock!
Purred: Mon Sep 28, '09 7:44pm PST 
I had a cat a long time ago that the vet told me was about the mental age of a 4 month old kitten(he was over a year old when I got him). And he played and acted just like a kitten. He never learned from mistakes of any kind, no matter the severity. Had no real short term memory to speak of. What really got him, though, was the fact that to him, every fight was a play fight. At that time(30+ years ago), it was normal to just open the door to let the cat out. He got in a fight with a neighborhood tom, and had his belly badly ripped up. Was in the vet's for 4 days on IV antibiotics. He still kept wanting to go say hello to the tom.
So yes, they can suffer from mental handicaps as well. It's not all in your head.


I'm the baby,- gotta love me!
Purred: Mon Sep 28, '09 9:36pm PST 

this sounds like typical kitten to me. Kittens are very stubborn, as are some cats too. Whenever you are training them out of a behavior, it will escalate before it is extinguished. It's called an extinction period.

All you can really do keep the training consistent, and weather through it. Kingston too, will eventually convince him that when she hisses she means business. For now though, he just hasn't bought into it.

Give him time. I swear Gracie acted pretty brainless when she was a kitten (to the point that if I didn't know better, I would have worried about inbreeding), but nowadays she's a lot quicker at reading the humans' behavior and at understanding when we're trying to convince her not to do something. She actually seems to truly understand the word "No" a lot better than Boris (who is by far the smarter of my two cats, but who only backs off from some bad behavior if he's hissed at). For her part, she needed to just get through her first nine months of life, and then she started calming down a lot. Once she was not a "play 'til you drop asleep where you stand" kitten anymore, she became quite observant.

Edited by author Mon Sep 28, '09 9:37pm PST


Charlie- Chocolate- Paws

That\'s MINE!
Purred: Mon Sep 28, '09 9:41pm PST 
I've got to agree with Gracie, sounds like typical kitten behavior to me. I've got two 6 month old kittens and they both behave in this way. Gracie gave some good advice. Hang in there and if you continue to be concerned, talk to you vet. Take care! hug


I play, therefor- I am!
Purred: Tue Sep 29, '09 3:21am PST 
I also agree with Gracie and Charlie. This is how most kittens behave. I just want to add that many people have found that squirt bottles aren't very useful for training kittens/cats. Also, you calling him "good kitty" or something might not mean to much either at this stage. Can you offer a treat as a training reward? For instance, if you are trying to get London to not go on the table, try calling him down off the table (pick one simple word to use like "off" or "down") and give him a small treat. He should get the idea after a while, but it might take time. Good luck!


Being cute is so- exhausting!
Purred: Tue Sep 29, '09 5:07am PST 
I'm just over 3 months old and what you described sounds exactly like me, we'll grow out of it!


No Not-Moms!!!!
Purred: Tue Sep 29, '09 7:39am PST 
Mom brought me home because my furmom was feral, the vet tech had trapped me, and I needed a home. I had no other kiddens to play with (I was about 3 months old then), so I used to try to play with Morganna, who'd been living with Mom for a while. I guess Morganna was just grumpy because she never, ever wanted to play - ever! So one day, I insisted; her back was to the wall and I was trying to play with her when all of a sudden, she really lit into me! She didn't injure me in any way at all, but she sure beat the stuffing out of me with her paw! And Mom just laughed - imagine! I was so surprised that I got away & climbed (too small to jump) up onto the bed. Mom said my eyes were as big as dinner plates! I didn't know what had happened! But see - I'd kept pushing Morganna and pushing her until she pushed back. Kiddens can be furry hardheaded! shrug


Named for the- other famous- green tractor
Purred: Tue Sep 29, '09 8:48am PST 
For doing the right thing you need a better reinforcer than praise.

You need to use something like FOOD as a rewrd. Very small bits of soemthing REALLY good (like tiny bits of hot dog). When kitty does the right thing, mark the correct behavior with YES! and a bit of food.

If kitty is on the counter and you squirt kitty with water. Kitty jumps down and the INSTANT he hits the floor you say YES! and todd food on the floor next to him.

This does a few things. First it shows him what is right (can't tell him what is wrong if you do not tell him what is right and right gets a better reward than wrong). Second it replaces the undesirable behavior (counter walking) with a desirable behavior (floor walking). Third it reinforces the desirable behavior with something better than counter walking (food).

You can also used toys and play as reinforcers for the right behavior.

There are some things you cannot train. For instance, if you leave dirty dishes from Tuna Cassarole on the counter, you cat will jump up on the counter and be instantly reinforced for jumping up. to cure this you can NEVER leave dirty dishes on the counter.

Behavior NOT reinforced will eventually extinguish. If a cat has been inadvertently reinforced for counter surfing by dirty dishes on the counter, then having a spotless counter for MONTHS may be needed to extinguish counter walking.

So here is the story. Reinforce what you want and be VERY good at being certain there are NO reinforcers around for what you do not want. Set kitty up for success and not for any behavior you do not want.

It can take some original thinking on your part.

Princess- Zelda- Serafina

Nobody puts- Princess in the- corner!
Purred: Wed Sep 30, '09 10:41am PST 
Behavior can differ between cats. We have one who is very well behaved and learned quickly what we wanted of him. Our newest arrival however is a little hellion and refuses to behave, much as you described. I understand it's frustrating, but some kittens are just like that. Just try and stay calm and hopefully it'll all even out about age 2. I find that creating a kitten safe room to put them in when they're especially naughty helps. You can put toys and a cat tree in there, and give you and the kitten a break.