Can You Train Your Cat? Yes and You Should!
17 August, 2016
Cats aren’t by nature domestic animals even though they are a part of nearly 36 million households and counting! Because of their inherent predatory nature, we find our kitties doing things that we hope they wouldn’t: scratching the furniture, bringing us treats from outside and howling throughout the evening. After all, this is normal behavior for cats. But, cats can be trained with a little effort and a lot of repeat.
Training your cat is equally important as training your dog
The only way to help cats adapt to the demands we put on them is us to train them. Cats are not naturally indoor animals which is why they often can be found watching the birds outside your window. Studies have shown that cats can benefit even more from training than dogs, which have a much longer history of interacting with us humans than cats do. The goal in training our cats is to try to teach them how to control their own behavior and not force or demand it upon them.
Below are five tips to help train your cat:
1. Use positive reinforcement at all times!
Never punish a cat; always train them by using rewards. Cats learn best when they are rewarded and they don’t like people who punish them. Rewards make cats feel good and can instill the habits you’re looking for. Yelling or getting frustrated will scare your cat and set back the training.
2. Pick the best rewards that your cat will respond to.
For most cats, the biggest reward is food. Cats are carnivorous by nature, so little morsels of chicken, ham or tuna (they run when you open the can!) are often their most valued treat that the will respond to. But cats also love to play (it’s the perfect outlet for their hunting instincts), and some love to be groomed and stroked. Both can be used as other incentives and playing should be encouraged so your cat doesn’t get fat!
3. Pick the moment when your cat is ready.
You may be ready to start training, but does your cat feel the same way? Turning his head away, flopping slowly onto one side, or an extended grooming session might not be the best time. Our cats are usually alert after eating and you can then use toys or games to get the desired behavior. After a nap is also good if they aren’t too groggy.
4. Take baby steps by breaking down the task.
Don’t expect too much too soon. Take baby steps. If you want your cat to stop scratching the furniture, for example, start by getting scratch pads or a scratching post. Put a little catnip on it and get your cat used to the scratcher. Every time your kitty scratches the correct pad or post, give her a rub down. If your cat scratches the furniture, do not yell, but bring her to the post.
5. Use your treat or toy to lure your cat to get the response you want.
If your kitty doesn’t volunteer the action you’re hoping for, lure your cat to the location or posture you want by using his favorite reward. For example, if your cat won’t approach the carrier on his own, try picking up some food and moving it toward the entrance. Or as in the above example, put a little food on the scratch pad and when your cat scratches, give him or her a nice rub down.
Cats inherently are hunters so when they get feisty while training, take a break, and engage in ‘prey’ play by tugging a feathery toy along the floor and occasionally allow the cat to catch it. This is a way to keep your cat entertained and calm your kitty down before starting a training exercise.
If you try to adopt your cat’s way of thinking and use their timetable, you can train them. You and your cat will be happier for it!