Training your Cat
Your new cat will have a much easier time adjusting to your
household if you begin proper behavior training from an early age. Be
sure to be consistent, and follow the advice here for behavior
training. Proper behavior training will allow both you and your cat to
live together peacefully in your home. The training information on this
page has been provided by Perfect Paws, Inc.
Litterbox Training |
Biting & Scratching | Eating Plants | Companions for your cat
copyright 1995 Bohnenkamp, Perfect Paws, Inc.
No, this is not about Kitty Boot Camp! If you want to train your cat to sit, stay and heel, perhaps you should get a dog. If your goal is to train your cat to adroitly perch himself over your toilet to do his business, this article is not for you. This article is for all of us who would be happy if our cats would just use the litterbox instead of our comforter, closet, or shoes. This is for owners who would like their cat to use a scratching post instead of the stereo speakers. If you're like me, you admire your cat for being a cat and you want him to behave as nothing other than a cat, but a well-behaved one.
Before we can train or teach our cats to do something or to stop doing something, we need to look at how cats learn. They don't understand English, they can't read boods or attend lectures. They learn by experience. If the experience is good, they will try to repeat it. If the experience is unpleasant, they will try to avoid it in the future. They enjoy raking the furniture with their claws, so they continue to do it. But it's quite a shock when they stick their nose in a candle flame, so they won't do that again
The key to training is to make sure that whatever you want your cat to do is exceedingly rewarding and pleasurable. Whatever you don't want your cat to indulge in must never be rewarding or fun, in fact, it must be unpleasant.
Sometimes we unintentionally reward our cats for obnoxious behavior. A common complaint is that the cat pounces on the owner at five in the morning, meowing up a storm and generally being a pest. What do the owners do? They get up and feed the cat, play with him or let him outside. Kitty has learned that this behavior gets him exactly what he wants.
Many owners become frustrated because they can't catch the cat in the act of the crime, so instead they show the cat the evidence (usually a wet spot on the carpet or pieces of shredded drapery) and discipline the cat at that time. A common practice is grabbing the cat, pointing out the wet spot, then dragging him to the litterbox and forcing him to dig in the litter. What the cat is learning is that being reached for by the owner is a bad experience and that the litterbox is a torture chamber. It is usually difficult if not impossible to catch the cat in the act because most cats have already learned that being caught is bad news.
Reprimands simply do not work. If you catch kitty in the act, he will only misbehave when you are not around. If you punish the cat later, he will not associate the reprimand with the crime. In either case, the misbehavior continues. some cats misbehave just to get attention and the attention is enough of a reward to cause kitty to continue his ways. So what do we do?
If you want to prevent problems from occuring, or reform kitty of his bad habits, the answers are the same. Here's a three point plan:
First: Stop all reprimands and punishment, no matter what your cat is doing.
Second: Set kitty up to successd in performing those behaviors you want her to learn so she can be rewarded.
Third: Set up kitty's environment so that those behaviors you don't want him to learn are not rewarding. Let's look at these more closely.
1. Stop all reprimands. Concentrate on making your relationship fun, rewarding, playful and interesting. Sometimes this change alone will solve your problem. Cats are known to become overly active and destructive when bored. Daily play sessions and relaxing massages help calm kitty down. Cats that feel neglected will often stop using their litterbox. If you schedule regular sessions to give kitty your undivided attention and to play games with him, even litterbox problems can disappear almost overnight.
2. The most effective way to train a cat is through rewards, so the second step is setting up the cat's environment so he can succeed. This will give you the opportunity to reward and praise him for good behavior.
Let's take a look at litterbox training as an example. A cat's physical system is very regular. If you control the input, you are also in control of the output. Kitty should be on a regular feeding schedule so he will have a corresponding regular output schedule. Adjust his feeding time so you can be present when he needs to go. About 15 minutes prior to when you know he will need to go, take him to the litterbox room. Because you and kitty are locked in the litterbox room, he doesn't have the option of going on the carpet in the hall or on your bed. His only choice is the litterbox. When he uses it, praise the daylights our of him! Give him a juicy chunk of salmon or another treat that is reserved for this wonderful performance. Until you're sure that kitty is completely litterbox trained, don't give him free access to the rest of your home when you know his bladder and bowels are full.
3. The third step is setting up the cat's environment so that his misbehavior is not a rewarding experience. Let's take a look at furniture scratching as an example. While making kitty's scratching post fun, rewarding, and exciting, it may also be necessary to make the furniture unattractive as a clawing item. Instead of you telling the cat to avoid the furniture, let the furniture itself tell the cat to stay away. It's up to you to find something your cat does not like. Each cat is different. However, most cats don't like to snag their claws while scratching, so you might try draping some netting or tulle over the furniture. Some cats don't like the feel of aluminum foil or two-sided sticky tape. A mild menthol or citrus scent repels some cats. Once your cat realizes that these places are not fun to scratch or sit on, and she regularly has wonderful times at her scratching post, the problem of inappropriate scratching will disappear.
Maybe you do want to train your cat to jump through a hoop, maybe you just want him to stop climbin the drapes. Whatever the case, remember that cats learn best throught he use of rewards, praise, and positive reinforcement. Set kitty up to succeed. Set yourself up to succeed with your cat. It works. And it's a lot more fun that way for both of you.
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copyright 1995 Bohnenkamp, Perfect Paws, Inc.
Your cat needs to scratch and climb. Scratching conditions your cat's claws by removing the old layers of the nails. Scratching and climbing are highly enjoyable feline activities and are a part of the essence of being a cat. Since our cat will want and need to scratch, provide her with a variety of scratching posts and teach her to use them. Until your cat can be trusted not to scratch and claw your furniture, she should not be allowed free run of your house when you are not there to supervise her. If your cat has a single favorite scratchng site, this may be temporarily protected by covering it with some netting or loosely woven fabric. Cats do not like to snag their claws.
As a temporary measure you can confine your cat to an area where she cannot get into trouble. Confiment is not hte answer to the problem, but it can be used ot help tran your cat to use a post when you are not home ot actively train her. The confinement area should be well stocked with a variety of scratching and climbing posts. Since your cat will have no other choice of things to scratch, she will learn to scratch and climb her posts.
You can buy scratching posts at your pet store or you can build one yourself. Rough hewn 4x4's set vertically with a few horizontal resting platforms are ideal. Whether buying carpet to cover a home made post or purchasing the finished item, remember to take along a comb to chekc that there are no loops in the carpeting which will snag the cat's claws. You can also attach the carpeting underside-up, as the backing has a rough texture that cats enjoy.
Whether you are trying to prevent or cure a scratching problem, the single most important thing you can do is praise and reward your cat for scratching and climbing her post. Simply plonking down a few posts in front of your cat is not enough. You must specifically train her to scratch these items and these items alone.
If your cat is not interested in them, it's up to you to show her how fund they can be. Put her favorite food treats on some of the platforms. Attach toys so they dangle down enticingly. Rub the post down with catnip. Most cats scratch immediately after wakng while perfomring stretching exercises. As soon as your cat wakes up from a nap, call her to her post. Scratch the post at a point of a couple of feet off of hte gorund. Most cats reach up and stretch with their front paws on the post. Praise your cat profusely, especially if she makes scratching motions.
Don't try to physically force your cat to scratch by holding her paws. She will resist and even dislike the post. The most effective method of teaching your cat to use her post is through lures and rewards. Always be on the alert to lavish your cat with praise, affection, attention and even a treat anytime she scratches or climbs her post without your encouragement. Never take this for granted.
Train your cat to scratch her post on command. Stand by the post with a treat in hand. Say, "Kitty Scratch" or "Kitty Climb", or some other suitable request. Give your cat hte treat when she comes running. If she is not interested, wait until dinner time and try again. Once your cat shows interest, hold the treat higher and higher up until she has to climb the post to get it. Place a treat on the highest platform and give her the request to "climb". In time she will learn to climb her post on command for treats, affection, attention and play time.
Once your cat understands that scratching and climbing her post is fun, rewarding and gains your enthusiastic approval, it is time to teach her not to scratch the draps or furniture. I fyou catch her clawing at anything other than her post, immediatly startle her with either a blast of wanter from a plant sprayer or a sudden loud noise. Then tell her, "kitty climb!". She will soon realize that unpleasant things happen when she tries to scratch the furniture, and she will remember how wonderful it is to scratch her post.
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copyright 1995 Bohnenkamp, Perfect Paws, Inc.
It is normal for cats and kittens to bite and scratch. If a cat is frightened or feels threatened, it will naturally try to defend itself. I fyou touch your cat in a sensitive area, he may bite or scratch as a way of telling you to "quit it". Some cats will solicit your attention and enjoy a few minutes of gentle stroking, then suddenly turn around and bite. Thre is a fine line between pleasurable petting and irritating handling. When your cat has had enough, the only way it knows how to say "stop it", is with its claws or teeth. Cats and kittens will also scratch and bite when they are playing and acting out their hunting instincts.
Teach your cat to enjoy being touched and handled so he doesn't feel threatened, defensive or irrtated. Start the lessons when your cat is relaxed. Begin by handling him in ways he finds pleasurable. Scratch behind his ears and stroke the top of his head. Lengthen the strokes to include more of his body. Stroke down his back, down the hind legs and tail. Stroke along the side of his body. See if he will roll onto his side or completely roll over to accept a tummy rub. Use plenty of praise, reassurance and an occasional food treat. Work slowly and gradually increase the area of his body that may be stroked.
Witihn a very short handling session, you will be able to locate your cat's sensitve spots that will require additional careful attention. Usually these are the mouth, paws, ears and tail. When working with sensitive areas, touch your cat for just one secnd and immediately reward him with his favorite food treat. Your cat will learn to happily tolerate prolonged contact in these areas.
Gently take hold of your cat's paw, scratch him behind the ear and give him his treat. Then let go and ignore him for a while. Repeat this routine several times. Your cat will soon look forward to having his paw held. Carefully try to spread his toes. Continually praise and stroke him with your other hand as long as he appears relaxed. Examine each toe and nail.
Facing your cat, scratch him beihnd his ear with your fingers, and use your thumb to gently fold back his ear to examine inside. Similarly, when examining his mouth, continue scratching behind the ear and with your thumb, gently flip up hi supper lip to expose his teeth.
Work slowly and gently, always rewarding and praising your cat for good behavior.
Cats are predators. Even though you provide your cat wil all his meals, his instinct to hunt still exists. It is normal for cats to continually practice and fine-tune their hunting skills. Therefore, it is essential that you provide an outlet for this behavior or your cat will practice on you.
Three fifteen minute play sessions a day will give your cat neough opportunity to vent his energy. Make these sessions active and fun. Tie a toy to a length of string. Drag it in front of your cat alternating between slow pulls and sudden jerks. Let your cat stalk and play attack his toys instead of you.
If your cat becomes overly excited, tone down the play session. Do not resume until he has calmed down. If he begins to bite or scratch you, immediately scream "OUCH", stop the play session, walk away and ignore him. Curtailing a play session an extremely potent punishment. Your cat will soon learn that it is his own rough behavior that causes the abrupt end of an enjoyable play session.
If your cat attacks you in play, entice him to attack when you are prepared with a plant sprayer. A few repetitions of an attack-squirt sequence should convince him to attack his toys instead of you.
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Preventing your cat from eating your plants
copyright 1995 Bohnenkamp, Perfect Paws, Inc.
Eating plants is an exceedingly dangerous habit as many household plants are poisonous. If your cat is developing a habit of eating plants, you must separate the two until the problem is solved. Either remove the plants or confine your cat to an area with no plants. Do not delay. One good meal of hte common houseplant Diffenbachia is usually the last meal your cat will eat. Consult with your local nursery and do not keep poisonous plants in your house. There are so many non-poisonous plants to choose from, why take the risk? Even if your cat is well-trained, no cat is perfect and all it takes is one mistake for disaster to result.
If your cat loves to much on greenery, do not deny him this pleasure. Instead, provide him with hs very own special Kitty Garden. There are many commercially available kitty herb gardens for this purpose.
Do not assume that your cat will automatically dine in his new garden. It's best to teach him that this salad bar is intended specifically for his consumption. Call him over to the plants. Tempt him by waggling some of the leaves in front of his nose. Make them irresistable by garnishing them with salmon, or whatever meets his fancy. When he does eat, praise him lavishly. Let him know that this is a special treat just for him.
When your cat is regularly eating from his own garden without your encouragment, it is time to bring your plants back into your house and to teach your cat to stay away from them.
Start with one luxurious sample that is edible. Paint the underside of the leaves with an excruciatingly hot chile oil. Then spray the top of the leaves with a perfume diluted about 1:100 with water. You don't want your entire house to smell like perfume, you just want the plant to smell of it to your cat's very keen snese of smell. Place the plant in the middle of the living room floor and let your cat investigate.
Make the plant more irresistable by tying a length of string to a couple of leaves and tugging from a distance. This will entice your cat to approach and hopefully take a bite. At this point, he should dash off in search of his water bowl. Over the next week, move the booby-trapped plant to differenct locations in your house. Spruce up the hot sauce and perfume daily. When it's clear that your cat is no longer interested in this plant, bring in a second one and give it the same treatment. If it remains untouched, then you can bring in the rest of your plants, one a day. Spray them with the diluted perfume. At this point, it is no longer necessary to use the hot sauce since your cat already has learned that the scent of the perfume means the plant is hot. Regularly spray your plants witht the diluted perfume. Throughout this procedure, remember to encourage your cat to eat the plants from his own kitty garden.
Here is a list of poisonous plants to be extra-careful about, and a list of non-toxic plants.
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Selecting a Companion for your Cat
copyright 1995 Bohnenkamp, Perfect Paws, Inc.
Rabbits | Small Animals | Dogs | Cats | Special Considerations |
Before bringing a new pet into your heart and home, ask yourself, "Why do I want another pet?". Two pets are not necessarily just as easy or just as much work as one. Another pet will require time, energy, expense and patience. Many people who do not have enough time for one pet think that two will be better because they will keep each other company. If you think a second pet will alleviate lonliness, boredom, or behavior problems with your resident pet, think again. If you don't have time to spend with one cat, you surely will not have time to spend with two. Many cat owners end up with two bored and misbehaving pets instead of one. Furthermore, a second pet will not necessarily provide your cat with the companionship you have in mind.
If you are willing to put in the time and expense of a second pet, then take a look at your cat's desires. Does he want or need a companion? Is he happy to be the "only child"? Cats are by nature, highly territorial. A cat, especially an indoor cat can become extremely stressed if he thinks his territory is being invaded. Unless a cat has been raised with other pets and has been socialized with them, he will not readily accept them and will most likely be happier by himself. what is your cat's temperament like? Does he welcome strangers coming into your home? Does he hide fo rdays after they have left? Some cats are traumatized when a new piece of furniture is brought into the home! If this is your cat, you should seriously reconsider your plans.
OK, OK! You're convinced you have the time, you want anothre pet, and you've decided your cat will definitely enjoy a companion. What are some second pet possibilities and what are the prox and cons of each?
These animals are an entirely different "beast" than cats. Unless you already have experience with them and knowledge of their needs and behavior, you must be willing to do some research and gain at east a basic understanding of rabbits. Their needs are similar to but at the same time, very diferent from a cat's needs. A rabbit that is confined ina cage to prevent housesoiling will not be much of a companion for your cat. Therefore, housetraining your rabbit is a must. Without supervision, behavior training and rabbit-proofing your house, a rabbit can and will chew your belongings.
Can you understand rabbit language? What does it mean when its ears are back, forward, only one ar back, to the side, etc? What does it mean when the rabbit lunges, circles or begins furious thumping when it sees your cat? Do you know what these signs mean? Are these signs of affection or hostility? What will you do when you observe these behaviors? At least with another cat, you're already familiar wiht the felne language.
There are benefits to consider as well. While each can be extremely competitive with members of their own species, cats and rabbits have a harmonious, non-competitive companionship with each other. Introducing a half-grown or mature rabbit of a medium to large size breed is the recommended preference. A younger or smaller rabbit can trigger a cat's predatory instincts.
Have a friend bring Bunny to your home in a carrier. Set the carrier down in a quiet corner of a room and let the two see an sniff each other while separated. If they seem to get along, find a permanent location for your rabbit's cage. Make sure the rabbit has a secure place inside his cage to retreat to if he feels threatened. At least once a day, lock your cat in another room and let Bunny explore your home on his own. Watch both kitty and bunny get to know each other through the safety of the cage. If after about a week, they seem to like each other, then leave the cage door open and let them discover each other without a barrier separating them. Wait another couple of weeks before leaving them alone together.
A relationship between a cat and a rabbit can be very close. It is not unusual to find them licking and grooming each other. Cats and rabbits will often play together, usually with the rabbit chasing the cat. This game breaks up the daily boredom and gives them something interesting to do. Neither one takes the game too seriously, and neither feels the social pressures of same-species interaction.
Birds, mice, hampsters, etc.
Don't do it. Cats are predators, and these creatures are their prey. In the home environment, their presence can frustrate your cat. Your cat's presence will stress and terrorize them. One mistake or accident that leads to an escape of one of these little pets can be fatal.
When considering adding a dog to your household, a puppy is usually the best choice. Since it has no history of chasing cats or teasing them, a puppy may more naturally and readily accept your cat as a resident companion rather than as an object of harassment. A puppy is also smaller and easier for you to control and train to be a friendly companion for your cat. But remember, unlike some other pet possibilities, a puppy requires a tremendous amount of care, attention, and training. Depending on your cat's age and temperament, a puppy can also be an annoyance of source of trauma to your cat.
When introducing a puppy to your cat for the first time, confine yourselves to one room. Be sure the room has plenty of places for kitty to run, hide, and escape from what is sure to be a curious puppy. Sit back and relax. Your pets will tune into your feelings and attitude. If you act relaxed and natural, the chances are much greater that they will too.
Don't force them to meet, but be sure to praise both for being good during their encounter. Your main concern should be for the safety of your puppy's nose. A cat can strike out and scratch a dog's nose three times before the dog even realizes what has happened.
In the beginning, bring your puppy and cat together three to five times a day for at least five minutes each session. Teach your puppy not to chase the cat, but don't make too big a fuss when he does or he will think a big game is underway. Simply tell the puppy "off!", in a stern voice and gently push him away from the cat. A lot of vocalization on your part might be interpreted as encouragement and reward for his behavior.
If you don't have the time it takes to take care for a new puppy, consider a full grown dog as a companion for your cat. It's best to adopt one that has been with cats before. Each animal's personality is important to consider. For an outgoing cat, most any dog will do. Look for a mellow pooch if your resident cat is shy and quiet.
For at least a couple of days, keep the dog on a leash when he's around the cat. Praise and encourage all friendly behavior. Instantly correct the dog for any obnoxious behavior. Provide your cat with a resting and hiding place that the dog can't reach. Walk the dog around the room, allowing him to go wherever he wants, but don't let go of the leash in case he tries to lunge at or chase the cat. If your cat doesn't want to be close to the dog, she will seek her place of refuge. Your cat should have the opportunity to approach the dog if she wants, but she must know she can escape if she feels uncertain. Repeat this exercise as frequently as you can, until both pets are comfortable and responding favorably. Don't try to rush the introduction or force them to become friends. You will know and feel when the time is right to begin short supervised sessions wiht both pets unrestrained.
When selecting a new cat, try to find one that has lived wiht cats before. It is best to introcue a cat that is different in age and sex to the resident cat. Fighting usually occurs between cats of the same sex and age, especially between toms. While cats of the opposite sex get along best, they shold be spayed and neutered. Generally, you cat will best accept a kitten. However, if you cat is a senior citizen, spare it the nuissance of a rambunctious youngster and get it a mellow, adult companion. Try to match personalities. If your cat is a spitfire, then she will probably love another active cat or kitten, not a couch potato.
Have a friend bring the new cat in a carrier to your house. Set the carrier down and see what happens. If the cats try to attack each other through the carrier, the relationship is probably not going to work. If they seem to get along or are cautiously curious about each other, it will most likey work.
Keep your cat confined to a single room for a few days. This allows the newcomer the opportunity to familiarize himself with the room, which will become his safe haven and personal territory. Provide a litterbox, food/water dishes, tosy, bedding, and a scratching/climbing post in his room. It is essential that your new cat feel secure in his territory and has bonded with you before meeting your resident cat and adjusting to your entire house.
Spend some time along with your new cat so the two of you can bond. Begin teaching him the rules of your house by rewarding his good behavior. Praise him profusely for using his litterbox and scratching his post.
When your new cat seems to be adjusting to you and his new room, you can start to familiarize the cats with each other. Start off by letting htem et used to the smell of each other. Bring a piece of the resident cat's bedding into the new cat's room. Take some of the new cat's bedding and put it where your resident cat can smell it. Keep exchanging and rotating their beds or a towel that covers a favorite sleeping area. Let the cats sniff each other room under the door. Give both cat's plenty of opportunity to adjust to each other's scent. If neither cat acts like it wants to break the door down and kill the other, then it is time to begin leaving the door open.
The new cat will eventually creep out and meet the resident cat. What usually happens is that they both freeze, arch their backs, hiss, spit and even growl at each other. Then they both flee to safety. Should they have any squabbles, the newcomer can retreat to his own room. The resident cat will be less likely to enter because the room bears the scent of the newcomer. The security and familiarity of the newcomer's own room will help rebuild his confidence to venture forth again.
Don't force your new cat and resident cat to meet. They will do so on their own when they are ready. Don't shower your new cat with attention in front of the resident cat until he is well accepted as part of the family. Don't be upset if the new can remains in hiding for several days. This is the cat's normal way of dealing with stress and adapting to new situations.
Most of their first encounters may appear hostile to you, but it is best not to interfere. Let them work things out by themselves. They will understand and get to know each other more quickly if you do not confuse the issues by taking sides or adding to the tension.
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