You CAN train your cat!

Most of you are cat trainers and don’t realize it.  Does Fluffy come running when you use a can opener?  Does Maxi use his litter box or his scratching post?  Congratulations – you’ve succeeded in teaching your cat a behavior!

Most people think that cats can’t be trained.  Many believe that cats, unlike dogs, are independent, aloof, and can’t be communicated with.  It’s true:  Cat’s viewpoints, desires, and motivations differ from dogs.  This makes cats unique, not untrainable!  Folks living with felines attest that cats are bright; they often form close social bonds with their people & other animals; and they listen to & learn from their guardians.

While we have many of the same expectations for the dogs & cats we live with, generally, the techniques we use to teach Fido manners aren’t applicable to teaching Kitty proper etiquette.  If you understand the nature & behavior of cats, you can live peacefully with a well-mannered cat.

Historically speaking, cats have only recently been domesticated.  Consequently, you’re sharing your home with Kitty, who’s not very different from her territorial, predatory wild ancestors.  So it is no surprise that cat guardians’ biggest problem is getting their fluffy bundles of instincts to adapt to a human lifestyle.  Often, conflicts arise between guardian & cat because Kitty is stressed by perceived threats to her territory or she is expressing her prey drive.  These common complaints result:

  • Soiling outside the litter box
  • Scratching furniture, stereo speakers, carpet, window sills, drapes, etc.
  • Biting or scratching people
  • Household destruction (eating plants, climbing curtains, knocking collectibles off shelves, chewing, etc.)
  • Aggression toward other pets

While these are troubling, frustrating behaviors to live with, guardians must understand that their cats are acting normally – from a feline’s point-of-view.  However, these behaviors are inappropriate and are frequently resolvable.  Unfortunately, folks who fail to seek help with these issues often resort to physical punishment, which will make matters worse.  Know why Kitty does what she does, and begin a behavior modification plan.  This is key to restoring harmony in your household.

It is important that cat guardians know that they DO have resources for their questions.  Millions of cats are euthanized annually in this country, largely due to the behaviors listed above.  Most often, Kitty is misunderstood and/or her people didn’t know that they could get help.  You can contact your veterinarian or cat behaviorist for advice.  Critter Consulting offers in-home & telephone consultations to guide clients toward happier, less-stressed relationships with their cats.

Peace in your home could be  just a call or email away!

Article by Ruth Hagen.  Originally published in “North Bay Pets”, Sept. 1996.

© 2012 Critter Consulting

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