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Sat June 23, 2012
Training a cat? Okay, maybe your cat won't do parlor tricks but it is possible to teach your cat some basic good behavior.
Many people would not believe that you can train a cat.
I disagree – I believe cats are very trainable. You just have to understand what motivates them.
Dogs have been chosen as pets over the years precisely because they get along so well with people which makes it pretty easy to train a dog, especially if you want it to sit, stay, fetch, come when called.
Cats were domesticated partly because of their abilities to keep the vermin population down, which is more of an independent activity. So if you want to train a cat, you have to figure out what makes it want to do whatever it does.
Mostly a cat responds to its own history of experiences and interactions. If it’s an unpleasant experience, then the cat learns to avoid whoever or whatever caused it. A good experience has an opposite effect.
Think how easy it is for your cat to train you. For instance, your cat may wake you up before the alarm clock goes off, meowing and traipsing all over the bed. You think maybe it’s hungry, so you get up, give it some food or let it out. The cat learns that if it wakes you up in the morning it will be rewarded, so it repeats it again and again – and you continue to lose sleep.
To change a cat’s behavior, you must find a way either to make the current behavior unpleasant or to reward the behavior you want to encourage.
For example: scratching or clawing the sofa. Start by making the experience of scratching the sofa unpleasant by using something like double-stick tape in the area the cat likes to scratch.
Follow that up by offering a desirable alternative, something that is sturdy and tall enough and offers resistance when the cat pulls on it. Then make it attractive to the cat – you might try rubbing it with a little catnip. Place it near where the cat was scratching the furniture.
With a little patience you can save the furniture and your relationship with your feline friend.
June is Adopt-a-Cat Month, a great time to visit your local animal shelter and take one of these independent but trainable creatures home. You’ll save a life and have a new best friend and companion, when you’re speaking of pets.