Your cat's bad habits can be a thing of the past, with the proper training.
You can't train a cat—it's a widely held belief by many. While it may take extra patience and a few extra tactics up your sleeve, you can train your cat out of bad behaviors, as well as teaching her a few tricks. Just like with a dog, training your cat has many benefits. Not only will it improve your cat's manners, it will strengthen your bond and impress your friends with her amazing new tricks. Here are six tips that you can start using today to train your frisky feline:
Positive reinforcement works by rewarding good behaviors. Punishing bad behavior doesn't work. All it'll do is make your cat fearful and anxious when you're around, causing high levels of stress. By using praise and affection as sources of positive reinforcement, your cat learns what behaviors are acceptable and result in rewards. She'll be inclined to do the things that make you happy and, in turn, produce rewards she craves.
A way to cat's heart is often through her stomach. If your cat is food-driven, using a favorite treat (such as Smittens) as reward for good behavior or a trick well done is a no-brainer. It can be used for things as simple as training your cat to keep quiet. As an example, maybe your cat won't keep quiet or still when you're getting her food ready. To get your cat to sit quietly as you prepare her dinner, hold the treat to her nose, moving it in an arc over the top of her head so that she will naturally follow it and end up in a seated position. Once your cat sits, she earns her treat. All it takes is a few times for her to get the hint.
A clicker can be used in conjunction with treats. When your cat is displaying good behavior, click and offer a treat. The click is a signal to your kitty that she got it right; you're enforcing the behavior you want to see. Clicker training is all about repetition, so keep practicing. After a while, you'll be able to phase out the treats and just use the clicker.
Short Training Sessions
Keep your training sessions short and sweet. Just like dogs, cats will lose interest after 10 to 15 minutes. Depending on your cat's attention span, you'll notice a pattern—once she's bored, the training session should end. Consistency is key, so train every day if you can.
Cats often act out through bad behavior when they have too much energy. Training your cat is a wonderful way to release some of that excess pep. Be sure to set aside time each day to play with your cat. Play time is proven to prevent negative attention-seeking behaviors while making the bond between the two of you even stronger.
Setting Up For Success
If your cat's bad behaviors are a result of her living environment, you'll need to set up your home to help ensure success. An example may be that your cat keeps scratching your couch. Since you can't get rid of the couch, you need to provide her with a scratching post that's fully loaded with toys and catnip, and make the sofa unappealing to claw at (spays, covers, etc.).
If you can't break your cat from unwanted behaviors, it's time to call in a professional. And yes, there are cat trainers out there who are experienced with felines. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists offer in-home sessions, as well as kitten and cat socialization classes and private training sessions.
Amy Tokic is the Editor of Petguide.com, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.