Training Tips for Cats
Dogs can be trained, cats can’t, right? Well no. Cats can in fact respond well to training, it’s just that most people don’t bother trying because cats appear mysterious and aloof.
Cats can be trained using common training tools such as treats and clickers, as well as your voice and stroking them as praise. It just takes a bit of time and patience.
Training should always be done through positive reinforcement. Punishing your cat for not doing what you want is the worst thing you can do and can lead to all sorts of behavioural and health problems.
Before starting on specific training exercises its worth remembering a few things. Firstly how to get your cat motivated. Cats admittedly are harder to train than dogs but with the right reward it is possible to encourage your cat to respond to a command.
High value treats (such as pieces of tuna or cheese), playing with a favourite toy and stroking all help engage your cat. Use these as rewards for doing the correct behaviour.
Always keep training sessions short. A cat’s attention isn’t very long, so a couple of minutes repeated a few times a day is enough. It may take several days and even weeks but repetition is the key. Even after you’ve trained your cat to do something, it must be reinforced regularly so they are reminded what is expected.
Finally, only train your cat when they are in the right frame of mind. Before starting a session make sure your cat is relaxed. Don’t disturb them if they are asleep but pick a time when perhaps they are relaxing on your sofa or lap. Also make sure it’s not dinner time and they are not too hungry, as this could ruin their focus.
So what should you teach your cat? Cats can be taught many things like to come when their name is called, rolling over, giving their paw and even how to use a toilet! It’s always useful to start when they are a kitten but for those with older cats, as the old saying goes it’s never too late to try.
Here are four basic things you could teach your cat:
Coming when called
Use your cats name regularly when you are playing with them, when they are eating or whenever you pet them. Really get them used to the sound of their name. Try to call them over from a short distance and reward them with a treat. Do this several times a day. Eventually they will associate their name with getting a treat and you will be able to move onto greater distances.
To enjoy being handled
Often cats don’t like to be picked up but learning to be handled from a young age is really important. Not only for human interaction and bonding with your cat, but for when they go to the vets or there is a medical emergency. Kittens should be picked up regularly, cuddled and stroked. They should be rewarded if and when they don’t struggle. It should be a really fun and enjoyable experience. The principle for an older cat is the same; although you may find some cats really dislike being handled, so it could take a lot of patience. There are some too who will never like the experience, so respect this. Never force your cat and just work with them as far as you can go.
Using a litter tray
You need to show your cat or kitten where the litter tray is, take them to it at key times such as first thing in the morning, after food and in the evening and gently place them in it. Cats are very clean animals so make sure the tray is kept fresh and clean to encourage them to use it. Also make sure it’s not near their food or water, as this will put them off using it. Reward your cat with praise or a treat every time they use the tray. Remember this may take some time and expect some accidents. Eventually though most cats accept that is where they go to the loo.
Using a scratching post
Cats love to scratch so to save your sofas and carpets this is a useful one to teach. Just buying a scratching post though is probably not enough and they will need to be shown what to do. To begin with use a dangly toy over the post and encourage them to play. As their paw hits the post they will probably realise what it’s for. Or if your cat will allow it, lift their paw gently and scratch down the post. As scratching is instinctual as soon as they realise the post is a great surface for any scratching urges, it shouldn’t take too long until they understand what it is there for.
The key to training is consistency, repetition and reward. When you are at home it’s best to stick with one person in the family doing the training, however if you have a friend or a home and pet sitter looking after them at any point, it’s useful to let them know if you want them to continue with the training.
With kittens especially this is important, so you don’t have to go back to the beginning. Remember, homesitters are always fully briefed to ensure a cat’s routine and training is continued whilst you are away – one of the many benefits of employing one to look after your cat.
If you have a cat or kitten and have plans to go away this year then get in touch with Homesitters to find out about our home and pet sitting service.
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