Monday, October 21, 2013

Training a Cat

There are people out there who have the misguided idea that dogs are smarter than cats because only they can be trained. This is simply not true. Cats can be trained, you just have to tweak your approach to training. Felines can be less eager to please than their canine counterparts and so you have to work with them a little differently.

The most important thing with training any pet is to always be consistent. A common blunder many pet owners make is to say "no" and pet the cat at the same time. This is very confusing to the cat. So for example, if you want your cat to go away, a firm "later" and gentle push, without showing affection, will let the cat know that her presence is not desired at this time. Most cats will try two to three times to invade a person's space, often from different directions. When saying "Later", be patient and consistent.

Your tone of voice is very important to training a cat. As mentioned in my post, Communicating with Your Cat, when you wish to show displeasure, never yell or lash out, simply speak in a low-toned firm voice.

Some people recommend the squirt bottle technique of squirting your cat with water when they are misbehaving as a way to both distract the cat from the activity and eventually associate the activity with the unpleasant sensation of being squirted. I don't recommend this for one reason: it can only work if you are around all the time. Otherwise, the cat learns not to do it in your presence, but can go to town when you are gone. Instead, I recommend using apple bitter spray, which has an unpleasant taste, to discourage chewing, citrus scent, a smell most cats dislike, to keep them away from a certain areas, or tinfoil, which cats dislike touching with their claws, to discourage scratching. Another helpful item is Feliway, a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. It will reduce the general level of stress for your cat.

You can also train your cat to do tricks! Encouraging existing behaviors is the fastest and easiest way to get results, so try picking something your cat already does: if she sometimes sits on her hind legs to examine a toy, try saying “sit” or “up” and rewarding her each time; if he likes to paw your arm, make it a high five and say “gimme five.” It may take time, but with enough repetition the cat will associate your words and gestures with the trick you chose. Here are a couple of my favorites:

You can train your cat to shake using this technique:
  1. Let your cat sniff a treat then take it away form them.
  2. Give the command "shake". Lift up your cat's paw and then give it its treat.
  3. Repeat.
  4. After a few days of doing this about 10-15 times (total - not a day - don't give your cat too many treats) try to get the cat to lift its paw with the command. If it does, shake its paw while feeding it the treat and then reward it for doing so well with an extra teat afterwards.


There is also a WikiHow on training your cat to use the toilet!

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