How To Train Cats To Behave?

The Mannerly Mouser

By Lynn Whittaker, Bow Wow U

In households devoted to cats and dogs, you will still hear the debate as to which is better or more intelligent. I have lived and worked with both species and have to say that each has its own redeeming qualities. Both are smart and companionable, yet because they are two totally different creatures it’s really not fair to compare them. Cats are known for often ignoring their owners, where dogs will usually respond or give some indication that they have at least heard their owner speaking to them. Despite the differences between dogs and cats, and contrary to some beliefs, our feline friends are trainable. There are a number of cat training books on the market today that reflect this.

Cats are independent creatures and rarely have to rely on their owners to let them out, whereas dogs have biological needs for which they must rely on a human to assist them. There is a notion out there that states cats are solitary as a species. They are solitary hunters, and this is what may have brought this rumor to the surface. They are also ritualistic in their habits and do best in environments that are conducive to the organization, and orderly lifestyles. People, who have chaotic lifestyles and have cats, may find that there are more frequent behavioral issues with their feline friends.

Cats spend a lot of time educating themselves by fighting battles, escaping from homes, and learning when it is ok to bite and when it is not. These learning lessons begin with their mother and littermates and carry them throughout most of their lives. They also spend a great deal of time hunting during the day, as well as at night. Much of this goes on within the household often without our knowledge.

Domestic cats though being one species are all individuals with their own personalities. Cats can be timid, outgoing, friendly, unfriendly, social, or choose to be on their own. Cats that are timid may want to spend more time alone. They may be less likely to explore and more likely to stay in a specific location, say, under the bed, giving them less of an opportunity to learn what it is to be a cat. This doesn’t mean that your cat is not smart, you may just have a cat that might be comfortable with the knowledge he or she already has. Those that are outgoing may choose to be in the constant companionship of its owner or may enjoy hunting the occasional pant leg.

Cats’ temperaments, including the propensity to hunt, explore, etc. may directly affect what they learn based on their exposures to dogs, other cats, and people. Temperament and intelligence are two different things. Two different cats of the same temperament may take a longer or shorter time to figure out that when the cabinet door opens, food will be placed in their bowls. Most cats nowadays even know the time and place that their food is distributed, they even ask for it, by rubbing up against your leg or being vocal.

If you desire to try your hand at training your cat, it is best to train them to find the best time, treats, and methods that will work for both of you. Understand you are training a cat, not training a dog! They think differently and will respond accordingly. Perhaps you may want to teach your cat to fetch, stay off the counters, or resist the temptation to hunt. Placing a bell on the collar is a great way to deter hunting, whether your cat hunts outside or in, everyone will be informed as the cat tries to pounce on its prey.

Whatever you should desire to train your cat to do, it’s important to shape some of the behaviors your cat might already have. If your kitten likes to stand up on her back feet and reach you, you may wish to teach the cat to ring a bell, or to stand up on her hind legs on the command of “stand”.

With a little patience, there are a number of things cats can learn, from silly tricks to the elimination on command kind of training. As with all training, set your cat up for successes, take small gradual steps, train with minimal distractions in the room, use really great treats, and above all, give lots of praise. With these few things, you can have a best friend who might be a mouser, but is now mannerly in your home!

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