Can you really train a Cat?
As I sit here, I have just given my three cats their dinner. They are satisfied, they are happy, they are cleaning themselves and are just content with life. They are distracted at this time of the day, and they have their routines that follow after dinner. After their bath time, they will ten to one go to the toilet, followed by a drink of water then they settle down for the next hour or so before they begin playtime. Sometimes, especially on weekends, we want them to be with us at this time, because I consider this time of the day the most relaxing, while awake. I often miss this moment, because after feeding them dinner during the week, I have to start cooking for us humans. So I make the most of moments such as these. But how can you teach a cat to come to you?
Cats are independent pets, they have their own wants and needs. As they say, Dogs have owners, Cats have staff. My cats determine when they feel like having some love from us or their brothers, and when they don’t they will let you know rather quickly. Over the last ten years I have realised what works and what doesn’t work when I want my cats to do something they might not want to do.
It starts with a Name
As I’ve mentioned previously, all of my articles are based on what I have experienced. In my world, it works. But for others it might not. When I decided to get my first cat, Sasha, I was looking for a name that would best suit her. In the past when I’ve had dogs, I’ve always had names come to me so easily. They have been generic names, and the thought process was easy. But, with cats, it is more complex. Cats respond to sounds, have you ever wondered why, when you call a strange cat you make a “kss kss kss” sound? Reason being, they respond to a hissing type sound more than others. So any sound with “S” or “Sh” or even “Ch” makes them respond. Not necessarily coming to you, but showing attention or curiosity. So when you think of naming a cat, always consider a name with “S” or “Sh”. This way, they will get to know their names and respond to you when you call them. This has worked well with us over the years. SaSHa, DiZi, TraviS, SanCHo and now ScotCH. They all know their names, they sound different, but they emphasise the sounds that cats react to.
Here Kitty, Kitty
When you get a kitten, you would like to teach them the ways of the world, your world, their new home. Some people would say, cats simply cannot be trained. I disagree! I have managed to teach all of my cats right from wrong. For example, none of my cats jump up on kitchen counters or tables. They don’t beg for human food, and they don’t scratch on furniture. Yes, I have diverted their need to scratch by placing scratching posts systematically around my home, but, it also goes hand in hand with being persistent in training when they are still young. I don’t believe in punishment; this does not work for cats, or any animal for that matter. It’s all about diversion, and letting them know that certain behaviour is not allowed. When your cat jumps up on a counter, for example, make a loud hissing sound, or “Sh” sound, and they will jump off. When they are small, do the “Sh” sound, then remove them gently from the counter. The more you do this, the quicker they will realise they are not allowed on there. Some people believe in water bottles, others in Sticky surfaces (double sided tape etc). For me, it is just persistence, and sticking to it. It works! I don’t believe in punishing cats, you just have to lay down the law, and they will do the same when they don’t want you to do something, believe me. You all own the space, so as a cat would tell you, “I don’t want to be petted”, you should tell them “You’re not allowed on there!”.
The same goes for when you want some love from your kitty, or you simply want to let them know, you may come lie with me. The way we do it is by clicking out fingers and giving them some affection once they’ve responded to the click. For example, you are lying on the couch, your kitty is on the couch next to you. You click your fingers, then he shows interest, you pet him. Each time you want to show affection to your cat, click your fingers before you pet him. Eventually, when they hear the clicking sound, they will come to you. Make sure you always pet them when they do. This encourages the behaviour using positive reinforcement. It works! We are still in the process of teaching Scotch the ways of his world, but with persistence he will come when with a click of a finger.
Don’t do that!
First of all, and I cannot stress this matter enough, never give your cat food from your plate. The same goes for dogs, but we are here for the kitties. When you and your human family sit down for a meal, be it at a table or the couch, and your kitty jumps up hoping to score a bite, the first thing you do is make the “Sh” sound, same as above, then put him on the ground. The more you do this, the less likely he will be tempted to do it again, as there is no reward for him at the end of it, he will eventually give up. Yes, it is tempting when you get the “Puss-in-Boots” (from Shrek) eyes looking back at you asking for a bite, but I must tell you, it works eventually. He is not starving; he is just scavenging. This is not allowed, and he must be shown that this behaviour is not going to be rewarded with the food he is after.
After all is said and done, your kitties know what they want, and they will probably get away with a lot. My cats do, I must admit. But, certain things need to be in place so that you and your home are not completely overrun with our little fur babies. We all share the space, but it is up to us to let them know in a kind, caring but “this is it” kind of way, what is right from wrong. Trust me, the environment will be a more pleasant, more calm place for everyone sharing the space. But, I cannot deny, they still have me wrapped around their little paws! Try my suggestions, and please do let me know how they have worked for you.
Over the years I have definitely noticed and realised that cats have a hierarchy system which has to be in place for a well balance both in their colonies or domestic environment. How I’ve realised this is because in both adventures I’ve had with cats (first Sasha and Dizi then Travis, Sancho and Scotch). Cats are territorial creatures, this we know, but how do you know that some of the unwanted behaviour is just purely acting out against the dominant cat/s? Here are some things to look out for in cats with territorial behaviour.
Every household is different, every one of us is different, how we care for our cats is different – but there is one thing we all have in common, and that is we all go away on vacation, business trips whichever it may be, from time to time. So what do you do with your kitty? Where do they go? How do you prepare for this daunting trip for them? My husband and I have recently travelled abroad for just under a month, and my cats had to be looked after while we were away. Here are some things you need to consider for your cats when you go away.