Those who say a cat can’t be trained live in a world of myth. Your kitty has the intelligence to learn many things. You simply have to learn the training method that works.
In this post, learn of suggested ways to initiate successful training, as well as what not to do. A cat learns a great deal if you go about the teaching process in the right way.
Consider using the following list
First of all, what do you feel kitty should learn first? What do you want to teach him? Here you will find some common objectives.
- Use of the litter box
- Not scratching furniture or rugs
- No biting
- Learning to follow simple commands. These could include sit, stay, high five, roll over, jump, to name a few.
- Teaching a cat not to do something
- Helping him learn additional tricks.
Sessions should be short
Since cats have their own ideas as to what they should do, find a time when the cat seems interested and ready to interact with you. Keep the sessions short, and do them frequently. Remain calm and patient, and, above all, practice persistence. (That’s a trait the cat could teach you!)
Give kitty time. The experience may test your patience, as kitty’s independent nature and innate stubbornness could slow down the progress. Just don’t give up. If you are persistent and consistent, you will make progress.
Do not punish your cat
You need to avoid both physical or verbal punishment. If you hit kitty or yell at him, you simply negate any positive effects you have gained from the training.
In fact, you may make your cat fearful of you, if you try using punishment when training. Kitty will not understand why you are punishing him; instead, he will become confused and perhaps frightened, not a good learning atmosphere.
Use positive reinforcement
Offer a preferable alternative. If kitty insists on scratching the furniture, put a scratching post next to that spot, and, if your cat likes catnip, try sprinkling some on the post. You might gently move kitty’s paws from the furniture and put them against the post.
It is a good idea to have more than one scratching post available so they can be moved to a needed area.
PLEASE do not consider declawing as an alternative. When a vet declaws a cat, he cuts the toes off at the first joint. This painful and cruel procedure can cause kitty pain and discomfort for his entire life.
A better plan would involve putting sticky paper, alumium foil, or heavy plastic carpet runners on areas that your cat should avoid. As cats do not like to walk on these textures, it may keep him away from those spots.
Litter box woes
If your kitty is peeing outside the box, try these things. First of all, for each cat in your house, there should be one litter box per cat, plus one extra. If you have 15 cats, this could become a problem, but with one, two, or even three cats, it should prove fairly easy.
Then, make sure to keep every litter box scrupulously clean. A cat does not like to use a dirty box, and can you blame him? All boxes must be cleaned once a day, and more if necessary.
If you have a covered litter box and kitty prefers to use the floor, take the cover off the box. Some cats do not like to use a covered box.
My old cat, Pogo, started peeing outside the box. As soon as he got an uncovered box, that behavior stopped.
Avoid using smells or tastes the cat dislikes
It might seem like a good idea to put something that has a smell or taste that kitty doesn’t like in the area for a deterrent. These could include such substances as citronella, perfume, air freshener, citrus, aloe, eucalyptus or wintergreen oil. Tastes might include bitter apple, a citrus product, hot sauces, cayenne pepper, or aloe gel.
Don’t do it! These substances can poison your cat, if they inhale or ingest any of it. If kitty has done so, you’d better take him to the vet.
Use sound as a deterrent
hand clap or a loud “Hey!” may be enough. You just need to startle the cat so he will stop what he is doing. If you are consistent with this approach, kitty will eventually associate the behavior with the negative sound.
How do you reprimand a cat?
Keep it simple. A loud “no” will do the job. Do not use his name when you say “no.” Do not shout — just use “no” in a loud voice.
Use the “no” reprimand as soon as you see him doing something forbidden. Be consistent — use “no” whenever he misbehaves. As soon as his misbehavior stops, tell him he’s a good cat.
Just like a little kid, the cat may try you to see if his behavior still causes you to use the “no” word. Also, please remember that whenever he comes to you or comes home, give him a reward of some kind. He will learn that such behavior wins your approval.
How do you reward him?
Offer rewards for good behavior, as positive reinforcement will go a long way toward getting him to repeat that behavior.
I learned from this research that kitty’s name should never be used with the word “no.” You want your cat to know that when he hears his own name, he has done something good. Don’t say his name as a warning that he’s close to misbehaving, and don’t say his name when he acts like a jerk.
Just let him learn that when you use his name, he has done a good thing.
If your cat walks to you, do not do something unpleasant, such as giving him a pill. Instead, welcome him, so he knows you are glad he’s home. Give him a reward.
Rewards do not have to be treats. They might include some play-time or a trip outside. Perhaps you have a catnip treat, or perhaps you can just give him some scratches in his favorite spot. By all means, say his name, and tell him that he’s a good cat.
When the cat acts in an inappropriate way, sometimes just ignoring him will make your point. Also, here’s another good suggestion: If he bites you, instead of saying “no,” say “ouch.” He will learn what the word means.
Water spraying may prove traumatic
Here’s another one I learned from experience: Don’t spray him with water. For a cat, getting sprayed is a traumatic experience. Use water spraying only in extreme situations, such as breaking up a fight or keeping a cat from crossing a street.
I learned about the negative consequences when I lived in Kodiak. The neighbor’s cat, Tiger, would come in our cat door in the morning as soon as he saw we were up and moving about.
My neighbor said, “just spray him with water whenever he tries to come in. He hates it.” Well, I tried it, and, yes, when I sprayed him, he’d leave. However, a little while later, he’d come back in. The attraction was my cat, Carlos, whom he loved, so I finally gave in and let him come in.
The result: Tiger did not like me. I couldn’t pet him or, heaven forbid, pick him up. He’d have a fit. If I wanted him outside, I’d have to gently sweep him out the door with the broom, saying, “Out cat.”
An interesting result: This practice taught Carlos his one English word. When he wanted out, he would go to the door and cry, “Ouooo! Ouooo!” He couldn’t get the “t” on the end, but I understood and would let him out.
What is your cat asking you?
Another tip I found in my research, which pleased me, as I already use this one. If the cat comes to you and meows insistently, obviously wanting something, ask him to show you what he wants. Then follow him where he leads. He’ll walk in the direction of what he wants. Then you can often figure out what he’s asking for, depending on where he leads you.
Another suggestion offered: Say “hello, (his name)” when he comes in the room. Pogo and I had a variation of this one. When I first got up in the morning, I’d come to the living room and say, “Good morning, Pogo.” Soon he started answering me with a single loud “meow” that I translated to mean “good morning.”
For some good cat training videos, go to YouTube and you will find several. I am including one on here for you to see as a sample of what is available. One of the important ones demonstrates to you how to teach a cat to come when called.
Other things you can teach kitty
If you want to teach your cat to sit you might employ a clicker. Stand in front of kitty with your treat and clicker, and say, “Sit” in your calm, steady voice. Hold your hand vertically in a stop signal. Every time the cat sits down, reward with a treat and click the clicker.
Carlos used to reach a paw up for his food before I fed him. My Spruce Island caretaker, Greg, said, “He’s trying to do a high 5.” It was easy to get him to touch his paw to my hand, and then he’d get his meal.
You can teach your cat this simple trick. Encourage paw movements by treating him every time the paw moves from the floor. Then, wrap the treat in your fist and wait until kitty tries to grab it.
Lift your hand higher and higher, and every time kitty touches the hand, treat him. Don’t forget to say “high five” so he makes the connection as to why he gets treats.
Soon kitty will learn to reach for your hand every time you extend it and say the magic “high five.”
Your kitty can learn some amazing tricks. You can think on your own of things that you want him to learn. Besides learning and expanding his talents, he will spend quality time with you in the process.
To see an example of just how well a cat can be trained, watch the video located in the right sidebar of this website, called “The Savitsky Cats.” This video offers proof that cats can learn lots of things you may have thought impossible.
Whatever training you and kitty try together, remember to keep it positive and give plenty of praise and rewards for good behavior. Keep sessions short, but regular. Be positive and consistent. You and kitty will both be rewarded, as such sessions, if done in a positive way, will strengthen the bond between you and your cat.
References I used for this post: