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Home > Pet News and Articles > Cats Can Be Wrangled

Cats Can Be Wrangled
Article By: Glenn Redmond

It has been said, "dogs have owners, but cats have staff."

Anyone that shares their life with our feline friends knows commanding a cat to do anything can be an exercise in futility. I continually see owners try everything from begging, yelling, and even punishment to try to achieve certain behaviours from their cats, only to be met with looks of boredom, distain, and total indifference.

Frustrated owners have complained that their cats cannot learn or be trained. This, however, is far from the truth. Cats are astute animals that can be trained not only to obey basic behaviours, but also to perform elaborate tricks. While it would be unrealistic to expect Lassie-like behaviours or for your newspaper to be fetched every evening, tapping into your cat's intelligence will not only increase your cat's trust in you, but also strengthen the human-cat bond.

Getting Started

Remember these basic tips when training your cat.

    1. Speak in a normal tone with all requests to your cat. Cats have hearing much more acute than ours, but because of their indifference, we often mistakenly feel they cannot hear us, and have a tendency to raise our voices. Nothing will get your cat running the other way more than a raised voice.
    2. Be consistent. Do not say "sit" one time in teaching a behavior and "sit down" the next. This will only confuse your feline student and lead to frustration for both parties.
    3. Motivation. Find out what your cats favourite treat is and only give this treat while training. Most cats love food and this is a great tool to use for motivation to learn.
    4. Punishment. Do not even let it cross your mind to punish your cat in anyway. They will physically extricate themselves from the proceedings, and if they cannot you may become acquainted with the mini-lion's aggressive response.
    5. Timing is everything. Reward your cat immediately after they perform the behaviour. A second or two after is much too late.
    6. Empty Tummies. Do not attempt training after a meal. If your cat is in the process of grooming after a mighty feast, the desire to work with you will be non-existent.

Teaching "Sit"

"Sit" is probably the easiest to teach. Take your cat's favourite treat holding it between your thumb and forefinger.

Let your cat smell the food and slowly lift the treat up as you say the word "sit". As soon as your cat assumes the sit position, give the food and praise him gently. Be careful not to raise the food too high, as this will only make your cat raise its front paws in an attempt to get the food.

As your cat becomes proficient at this exercise, remove the food from your hand. Ask your cat to "sit" without seeing the food, remembering to produce the food immediately upon compliance.

Teaching "Come"

I have found the best way to teach this behaviour is with the aid of a clicker. Most pet stores will carry them with a price tag of around $5.

In the beginning, have your cat next to you and click once, immediately throwing a treat on the floor next to your cat. Over a few sessions do this approximately 50-60 times. As the cat gets used to the sound, remove yourself to another room and click once always rewarding your cat with a treat and praise when they come running. Change your position in the house as your cat improves. That is, cat upstairs and you downstairs. Over time, this will be the most exciting sound to your cat, ensuring that they are only one click away.

Teaching "Off"

Start with your cat on top of an object that you do not mind them being on in the first place. Show him a treat, saying the word "off" as you bring your hand down towards the floor.

If your cat jumps off, reward immediately with the treat and praise. If your cat hesitates at the beginning, gently guide them with your hand behind their rumps. Remember not too push too hard or you will be met with resistance.

As your cat gets good at this behavior, say the word "off" without moving your hand very much at all, remembering to reward every time your cat complies with your request.

Eventually the word itself, without any hand movement, should invoke the behaviour and "voila." Your teaching of this word is complete.

These simple exercises are only the basics of what your cat can learn. Use your imagination, be creative and - most of all - have fun.

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