Jim Moore asked:
If you have a cat – or more than one cat – then you’re in the market for some quick and easy training tips. The following tips . . . tricks . . . and techniques cover a variety of situations that most cat owners encounter.
The key to effective training is consistency. Whatever you choose, be sure to do it on regularly, otherwise, you’ll be sending your cat mixed signals. And that will only make it that much harder to train her. Forget about cat training in 10 minutes!
Below are ten “must have” tips that will get you through your initial phase cat ownership.
1. Cats really don’t care that you punish them. It’s true. If you’ve owned a dog, you know that punishing him will help change his behavior. It doesn’t with cats. Bottom line. Don’t waste your time. They’ll sit there purring at you and just perform that same behavior again.
2. Corporal punishment is out of the question. Because a cat’s body is so delicate, you can’t “spank” a cat the way you do a dog to get its attention. That means when you’re training your cat, you have to match wits with it. Don’t worry. I’m confident you’ll win. There are things out there like cat clicker training, but I don’t recommend it.
3. Use a form of positive reinforcement. As you become a seasoned cat owner, you’ll discover that it’s difficult to catch your cat in the actual “crime”. It’s far easier, then, to reward your cat when you see her performing a right behavior. Keep some cat “treats” on hand. Feed one to your cat whenever she is doing something positive – like using the litter box or using her scratching post.
4. Keep plenty of toys – either store bought or make shift – around the house. Much of the “bad” behavior of cats is simply because they’re board. The feline is by nature a predatory animal. Remember the scene in the Disney movie, The Lion King, where little Simba gets “pouncing lessons.” When you think your cat is literally bouncing off the walls and tearing down the curtains, he’s only practicing his predatory skills. Provide him with alternatives and he’ll tame down – at least some.
5. When you’re away, keep him busy. If your cat is used to company, he may get bored and inadvertently destruction while you’re at work or are gone for any length of time. Here’s a quick hint. Buy a timer for your television set, make sure the TV is tuned to an animal-friendly channel (an outdoor channel or Animal Planet for instance) and then have the television automatically turn on at different times of the day. Cats can see images on the screen. He’ll come to investigate the noise and stay to watch the picture – at least for a while.
6. The value of a spray bottle of water. In some instances, spraying a cat with a harmless water bottle is enough to get their attention and stop the bad behavior. You only need a simple spray bottle that you use for misting plants. Squirt the cat if it misbehaves. Soon, he’ll know that he can’t do that.
7. Blow a harmless puff of air in your cat’s face. Yes, this sounds crazy, but it really works. If your cat is literally in your face and you need to teach him to keep a certain distance and give you some space, try it. Blow a puff of air into his face. It’ll startle and puzzle him. Soon, he’ll associate the two and you won’t be bothered by the unpleasant attention he gives you.
8. Make sure you cat has “a room with a view”. You know what they say, “curiosity killed the cat.” More appropriately, an irate owner went berserk over something a bored cat got into. Much of the bad behavior of your cat is simply due to his innate curiosity. Make sure he has a ledge or window sill that he can sit in comfortably to check out the birds and squirrels in your yard. If your window sill isn’t large enough for him to sit for extended periods, you can by an extension at the pet store. Or, if someone you know is handy, you can make your own.
9. Spend quality time with your cat. As a training technique, this may sound a bit unorthodox. But, it’s really a savvy move on your part. The more time you spend with your kitty, the better you’ll be able to communicate with her. Cats definitely have a form of communication skills that involves more than just “talking.” The better you know your cat – and just as importantly, the better your cat knows you – you’ll be able “to read her mind”. You’ll just “know” when she’s considering an improper move. And she’ll know when you disapprove just by reading your body language and the look on your face.
10. Confine the aggressive cat. Reward the victim. Got more than one cat? Then you probably have that occasional “cat fight.” Felines are territorial animals. They will get into a fight now and then over their “catdom.” If you view the fight, your first step is to disengage the action. Using a water sprayer is the best method. Squirt the aggressor. Try to avoid squirting the victim. After that, confine the “bully” in a less attractive space. In the meantime, reward the cat who didn’t attack – even when she was being attacked. Give her a treat and let her free roam the house. When you do put this pair of felines together again, try to keep them as supervised as possible.
These ideas are only the tip of the iceberg when you’re training your cat. As you and your pet begin to know each better, you’ll discover a language of your own. It may be through speech – you talk and she meows. But more than likely, the two of you will eventually be able to read each other’s body language. You’ll soon learn the subtle nuances of this very effective form of communication . . . and teaching your cat what she needs to know will be easier than you can ever imagine.