You've just got a new kitten or a slightly older cat, and you're afraid your new pet cat is going to be quiet sassy and have its way with you. Well, you don't have to fully bend to the way of your cat's behavior, and there are some healthy ways to build a mutually beneficial relationship with your kitty that's long-lasting – it'll just require some dedicated training.
Most cats can be easily trained to learn some useful commands, and help them learn to avoid destructive behaviors such as scratching. Below we’ll go through some key training categories you can use with your new pet.
There are inevitably going to be moments when your cat isn't following your human rules. Just bear in mind it's not their fault; it just takes a bit of practice for them to fight instincts and conform to those pesky human laws. Your cat may start chewing and clawing at random furniture in your house just by nature, but here's where you can hopefully productively redirect these natural instincts. An example could be clawing, where instead of letting your cat claw anywhere or preventing them at all, try to set aside key areas where your cat can release these natural behaviors such as with a dedicated cat scratching post in your home.
While guiding behavior release in a natural way like above is good, the second supplement to this is reinforcing good behavior your cat displays. The best way? Treats!
Never shout or swath at your cat as then you're directing behavior based on fear. Instead nurture a healthy relationship by stopping bad behavior through interrupting an activity by abruptly stopping and clapping instead of shouting at your cat, and then when they obey reward them with a chin scratch or treat.
Always control their behavior by either reinforcing good behavior or not, and never by exhibiting actions that may result in your cat fearing you.
You’ve probably always wondered how your friends cats understand signals that beckon them towards a certain area. This can be summarized as target training where you encouraging your cat to go towards a certain object or area. The simplest way to kick off this training is to present an object to your cat in front of it and when they sniff or touch it, reward them with a treat. Now, move this object further away and repeat the same process when your cat approaches it. As your practice this, eventually your cat will learn to be directed or summoned to a certain object or area through this command.
Clicker training builds off reinforcement where the sound of a ‘clicker' is positively associated with a reward such as a treat. As a result, if you combine clicks with a behavior you'd like to encourage, then every time you use the clicker sound to instruct your cat to that behavior, and it does it. The reward of a treat (even a pet) positively associates the sound to that behavior.
Clicker training is a great and simple way to teach your cat basic commands such as when to come for food, or head to bed.
One of the key things your cat will need to learn is litterbox training, and surprisingly is one of the easiest ways to train your cat. Simply provide a clean litterbox and in the same area offer it food and water. If your cat ever ‘poops' outside of the litter box, place these back into the litterbox. This itself should get them associating going to the bathroom with the litterbox but if not, next time after a meal place them in the litterbox and demonstrate how to scratch the litter with your finger. After a few times, your cat should get the idea, and always reward them with a pet if they did it correctly!
Though most cats are indoor, once in a while some fresh air doesn’t hurt! In such cases, leash training is important and the best way to get them comfortable is to invest in a high-quality harness that fits your coat. Check your cat's chest girth so you’re buying one that fits appropriately and comfortably.
Once you’ve bought your harness, place it on your cat a few minutes at a time until they get comfortable with it and walk them around your house. Slowly increase the time it’s on over a few days until you can sense your cat is okay with it before heading outside.
Understanding the meows
With all this training, us humans also need to be trained on understanding your cat's ways of communicating how they feel.
Eye contact and tail signals
A long , slow blink is a positive sign from your cat that he or she is accepting of you, and feels safe being with you.
With tail signals, if it’s held straight up with a curl this is a sign of happiness and confidence. However, if your cat's hairs are upright too and its tail is bent in a slight ‘N' shape, this can be seen as an aggressive behavior. The same applies if your cats tail is low but fur is standing up.
Other signs that are worth looking for is if your cats ears are pinned back and tongue is flicking, this shows worry and fear. Rubbing around your legs, wet nose kisses and licks are all signs of affection.
Ultimately, cats have been domesticated for centuries and have evolved to learn the unique behaviors of their masters. Your cat just needs a bit of guidance but are excellent pets once they’ve got the hang of it!