Is Training a Cat Easier Than Herding Them?
It is considered normal, if not required to train a new puppy or dog. Obedience classes, private sessions, dog sports, and help with behavioral problems are all common services for dogs. A quick google search will reveal plenty of results of dog trainers in your area.
So, why isn’t this the case with cats?
Cats are known for being independent, only looking for humans when they want to eat. This is usually marked by incessant meowing and circling your feet, until finally the willpower to resist them reaches its threshold and we give in and feed them. Inevitably, the demands become more persistent, through the night, when you’re trying to relax, or watch a movie. We lose our patience with our cats over these behaviors and our lives become an endless cycle of resisting and giving in to the cat.
This begging behavior isn’t something we let dogs get away with, so why does the cat get away with it?
We are under the impression that cats are untrainable, have no self-control, and are incapable of being motivated to learn.
This isn’t the case!
Research shows that cats would rather interact with you then get a food reward. Despite how the media portrays cats, they are able to learn and they enjoy it! So instead of this loud display every time your cat wants to eat, we can teach them how to patiently wait for their food!
Does it seem like all your cat does is sleep and eat? Maybe they are even packing on some extra pounds from this lifestyle or only exercising when you are trying to sleep at night. Training provides an excellent way to exercise them physically and mentally. Cats are small predators who hunt for their survival. Feral and wild cats get exercise by working for their food. Indoor cats need a way to keep them active, training provides them with a way to simulate hunting.
Staying out of trouble
A bored cat will find their own ways to keep busy. This may be attacking cords in your home, taking their frustration out on another cat, climbing blinds, and many other undesirable ways. Instead of finding their own ways to have fun, they need to have an appropriate outlet. When they are exercised appropriately, they can settle better. Also, their schedules become more realistic to living in harmony with us. When they are busy during the day, they will sleep at night instead of disruptive alternatives.
You and your cat enjoy each other’s presence more because you can get a good night’s sleep and not be annoyed by their constant demands. They will appreciate the attention and look for attention in different ways. Training gives them the skills to communicate with us in more appropriate ways to get what they want.
Training is a great way to bond with both new pets and ones that you’ve had for years. Working with your cat to teach them a new trick will build trust between the two of you. Your cat will figure out that all they need to do to get your attention and a tasty snack is the new cute trick they learned! You will quickly realize just how intelligent your cat is, and there is something to be said about how special it is to see your cat figure out a task!
Working towards a goal with your cat is incredibly rewarding! There are some amazing things that you can teach a cat. Some of my favorites that I have taught Peach are to wash her paws and turn the faucet off, to skateboard, to wait patiently for her dinner, and to come when called. She enjoys it just as much as me and waits in the spot that we usually train in!
How Do I Get Started?
We use scientifically proven reward based training to teach cats. They learn quickly when they are rewarded for correct behaviors with a food reward. The food is a basic need for cats and they are happy to work for tasty snacks. I mean, who doesn’t want to be paid for their work!
We use clicker training specifically when teaching new behaviors. The clicker is a small tool that has a piece of metal surrounded in a plastic case. When the button is pressed, the clicker makes a distinct click-clack tone. The cat is trained that they get a treat every time they hear the click sound. The clicker is used to tell the cat that they have completed the correct behavior. For example, if I ask Peach to sit, I will click the second her bottom touches the ground. Then, I follow the click with a treat.
Cats learn quickly with this consistent tone. Cats can learn positive alternative behaviors to do instead of their most annoying ones, confidence building tricks, exercises to make handling, grooming, and going to the vet easier, and fun tricks to keep them busy and out of trouble.
Life doesn’t need to be a battle of wills with your cat. Training alternative behaviors to their less desirable ones can make a positive impact in the home. Even if your cat isn’t disruptive, training is a great way to give your cat exercise and bond!
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