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Cat Training

Now what do we mean by cat training? I don't know about you, but the thought of training my cat to perform tricks does not appeal in the slightest. For me, one of the biggest attractions of a cats behavior is its independence and the fact that, although house trained, it is still essentially an instinctive, wild animal.

Cats can be taught to do tricks, give its paw for some reward, roll over etc. and without question some cats enjoy training sessions, but safe to say they are not as responsive as dogs and I love that about the cats character as much as I love a dogs willingness to learn!

So if you are looking for instruction on "10 ways to teach your cat to do tricks" your in for a disappointment. In this article we will only be looking at ways to house train your cat.

Good Cat litter strategies

Training a cat to use a litter tray is rarely a problem. But in order to encourage litter tray usage, the following strategies should help.

  • Show puss the litter box by placing them in it, but never force them to stay. If your cat does foul outside of the litter box take them quickly to the box and place them in it, NEVER scold or punish the cat, it just causes more anxiety.

  • Location, location, location! Like humans cats like a bit of privacy. In the wild a cat pooing is vulnerable so it needs a quiet , comfortable and safe place to relieve itself. And should you not provide this, a cat will find its own spot, but hey, that your fault not theirs! Remember cats are instinctive creatures, and this is normal cat behavior!

  • Try to locate the litter box away from too much human interruption. Cats often will make us aware of a preferred location. Try to be aware of this and toilet training should not pose too much of a problem. Of course you must also consider your own preferences and try to locate the box where odour does not waft around the house. A suitable compromise can usually be found.

  • Never put food and water with the litter box, would you like to eat dinner in the loo?!

If tiddles now refuses to tiddle in the litter box, one or more of the following could be governing factors.

  • Has the box been moved?. This could confuse your cat.

  • Is the litter clean ?. The litter tray should be spotless. Remove the soiled litter regularly, at least once a day. Clean the litter tray thoroughly at least once a week.

  • Try to use the same litter brand. Cats, like us, have preferences and will often not use a litter they do not like.

  • Have you changed the depth of the litter in the tray ?.

  • Is a bigger box required ?.

  • Is the box difficult to get to? This may be a problem for kittens and older cats.

  • More than one cat ? Try getting each cat their own box.

Changes in environment can also cause problems. Moving house, the introduction of another cat, the addition of a baby to the family or an unfriendly cat moving into the territory can cause stress and alter your cats behavior. Cats are by nature very clean animals so any change in your cats behavior should be treated with care, understanding and patience. Also look out for illness, if suspected take the cat to your vet as soon as possible.

Of course it is preferable, where possible, to do away with the litter tray. If you have a garden and would like to encourage your cat to use more natural surroundings, invest in a cat flap and gradually move the tray to the door then eventually outside. It may be a good idea to place food dishes where the litter tray had previously been to discourage fouling. However, generally speaking, cats do need much encouragement to use outside facilities when available.

Training your cat to comply to other house rules such as jumping on or scratching furniture just takes a little bit of patience. Scratching occurs when a cat marks its territory both visually (claw marks) and with sent glands in its paws. This is again natural cat behavior. You can discourage shredding of your home by buying a scratching post and redirecting your cats attention to it.

Stick to the house rules. Don't let your cat get away with something one time then reprimand it for the same "crime" on another occasion. Try to be firm but fair and, It goes without saying, never, NEVER hit, smack, shout, scream or in any other way frighten your cat. Frustration at a cats behavior is to expected from time to time, after all we are only human, but resorting to harsh forms of punishment indicates your lack of intelligence ~ not the cats !

Click training

I have already given my opinion on training cats to do tricks, its not something that I personally want to do. Its not that I believe it to be wrong or cruel, it is just down to my individual preference. Some cats may even enjoy it, in fact I would say they almost certainly do, have you ever tried to get a cat to do something it didn't want to?! However, one aspect of cat training that could be very useful is Clicker Training especially when used to train a cat away from unwanted behavior. Let me say right from the outset that I have never tried this, but the reports I have heard seem very positive and seems to work effectively on older cats. It works by using positive reinforcement and rewarding good behavior. Apparently the art is to find something that motivates your cat. Mostly, but not exclusively, this would be food. Initially you need to "charge" the clicker. You do this by pressing the clicker and follow this by giving your cat a treat. This can take some time for pussy to work out that clicks means treats. But when the cat has picked up that clicks are positive, you can go on to build and mold positive cat behavior by clicking when your cat does something right. Clickers can be bought, but anything that clicks will do, even a biro pen!

Jenny Harper :

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