There’s a good reason that something that’s tough to do is compared to herding cats. Cats are such independent creatures, that it can be hard to believe that you could train them to do anything, but the truth is that while training a cat is a different process, it’s not impossible. Here’s what you need to know to start training your purring buddy:
Cats Don’t Care About Praise
Dogs are social animals that are used to being part of a pack. When you, their pack leader, give them praise for a job well done, you literally make their day.
Cats, on the other hand, are solitary hunters bred to hunt vermin silently and solo. They’re not programmed to care about praise, so you can’t use the same tactics you would when training a dog.
Cats Do Care About Treats. A Lot.
Call it mercenary if you will, but a cat will do many things that it would not ordinarily do for the promise of a special treat. This is the key to training a cat. Reward your cat when they engage in the desired behaviour, and they will start to associate the behaviour with the treat. Once that happens, the behaviour is well on its way to becoming a habit.
Clickers Work Too
Cats have very sensitive hearing, and clickers can be used to distract them from the action that you want to discourage. Get their attention, and then distract them with a toy or a treat.
So What Can You Teach Cats?
Your cat will probably never be competing in obedience shows, and if they did, they’d be making history! However, while cats are certainly less trainable than most dogs, there are a surprising variety of things you can teach your moggy to master, including:
- Using a human toilet (although, unlike the movie, not flushing!) This is particularly useful for cats in small apartments.
- You can teach a cat to sit, just like you would teach a puppy. Take a treat in your hand, raise it up above their head so they have to look up, and say “Sit” at the same time. As they raise their head, they’ll be forced to lower their butt, and if you can repeat this behaviour often enough, they’ll start to recognize the word too.
- Cats can also learn to walk on a harness and leash.
- Cats can be taught to tolerate (although probably never enjoy) a bath. Start early, however, as trying to teach an adult cat to accept a bath can and often does result in stitches.
Never Punish a Cat
It’s never a good idea to punish any animal when you’re trying to train them, but a cat is even more sensitive to this sort of thing than a dog. When cats are punished, they run away or hide. It will not help to solve the problem, and it will probably result in more unwanted behaviour instead of less.
If you do plan to train your cat to listen to commands or to practice desired behaviour, prepare to be patient, but rest assured that it can be done.
For more information on animal behaviour and training, please contact us or schedule an appointment.