Training Your Cat – Learn The Basics

kitten tie
Kitten on his first phynsics lesson
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Train a cat? Most people believe cats cannot be trained, but cat owners know that they can. They follow a schedule set by you, and they expect you to follow it. Every weekday morning you get up at 6 am, and go into the kitchen and take your vitamins while you do this each cat gets a treat. Saturday comes, and the cats sit in the kitchen at 6 am waiting for you to get up to give them their treat. You don’t arise, and so they go into the bedroom, rouse you from your sleep, and demand you come out to take your vitamins and give them their treat. To some this may not sound like training the cat, but training the human. It’s conditioning. The cat expects the routine. You can use this to train your cat to do certain things.

Every time you leave you pat Fluffy on the head and say goodbye, every time you return you scoop him up and give him a kiss and a pet and tell him you missed him. After a week of this, Fluffy waits by the door as you prepare to leave, and when you come home he’s there waiting. Why? You’ve proven to Fluffy that he’ll get attention if he does. This has become routine for him.

Tricks are sometimes more difficult to teach a cat simply because the proper reward may be more difficult to find for a cat than a dog. Some cats are not food oriented, others are. For most cats, each stimulus will produce a different reaction. To teach a cat to play fetch some prefer a particular type of toy, others prefer to receive attention when they bring back the toy. You must find the one thing that will drive the cat to perform these tasks. Most cat tricks are normal activities they perform, but after they notice that they get special attention for them, they will begin to do them at your request.

Some tricks you can teach your cat are:

Speak:

Speak? Cats don’t speak on command! Well, for those who have a vocal kitty they know that this isn’t such an outrageous request. To teach your cat to speak on command, when the cat does vocalize, give them praise and repeat the same word every time they do. Most owners I know use the term “Meow.” You need to find the one thing that the cat prefers in order to make them speak. Some cats vocalize when they want attention when they come to you and meow, give them the attention they want, and reinforce the command word. This way after some time the cat will identify that word with the act of getting attention after vocalizing. After they make this identification, you can say to your cat, “Meow!” and they will respond in kind.

Belly up:

Some cats are very willing to lay belly up in the middle of the floor. Others are not. If your cat is, you can easily teach them to do it at your request. I use the word “Cute!” as the keyword. When the cat lays belly up, I say, “Cute!, What a good girl!” Then after they have made the connection between the word and the action you can actually get them to do it when you ask. Both of my older girls will “be cute” when I ask. They actually flip themselves onto the ground when I say the word, “Cute!” and throw their bellies in the air.

Come:

Now I know everyone says cats don’t come when called. Everyone who owns a cat knows they just need the right motivation. If every time you call your cat, they receive something they want, they will come when called. Cats respond to a can opener, why?, it’s simple, they know the can opener means special food. If you reinforce the action you can get your cat to come when called. Make a huge fuss when they do come. After some time, they will identify coming to you with the affection or play time they receive.

Sit Pretty:

You can also get your cat to sit pretty. It’s not exactly like when a dog does it, it looks more like a prairie dog than a dog sitting. They simply lift the front of their bodies and stand up. You can begin to teach them this by holding a favorite treat over their noses, and slowly lifting it. All the while saying “Sit Pretty!” Lots of praise and the food when the task is complete. After some time, the cat will connect the word to the action and perform the task at your request. You need to remember though that cats are driven by a more independent nature, and when they perform these tasks they expect something in return.

Once you begin to train your cat you’ll notice they do some tricks all on their own and just need a bit of encouragement to do them when you ask. If you are having a difficult time getting the cat to do it when you want them too, it’s simply because you haven’t found the proper key to get them too. Some will work for play, some for affection, some to be physically held. All of my cats have different keys to make them do different things. My middle girl Meayp (sounds like beep), will speak on request, but only if you offer to play with her with her cotton weaved belt. Before she gets to play we will say, “Meow!” and she will respond. She must meow 3 times before she gets to play. Reial (re-al) will sit pretty. We say, “Sit Pretty!” and she turns into her prairie dog self, and then she gets petting and lots of praise. We’re currently working this into “Dance!”. Which is having her turn around while she’s standing. She is more food oriented, so she gets a treat for each time she does it. We use very, very small pieces of cheese for this task. On our newest addition, Satin, we’re working on the basics, but she’s coming along quite nicely.

If you watch your cat you can enhance their actions with your own twists. It’s easy to train a cat, you just need to find actions they perform all the time, and then highlight that one thing. Good luck!

(c)Anjie Coates


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