Cats have reputations that precede them. Even cats who are incredibly affectionate, and are what some owners might call “dog-like,” can be incredibly headstrong. Cats simply don’t enjoy doing something that isn’t on their agenda.
Because of their strong characters, there is often a misconception that cats are less intelligent or somehow inferior to dogs. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Cats are absolutely capable of behavioral training. You just have to do it in a way that reaps the best results. So, let’s discuss different training strategies to help—and may the force be with you!
You can begin training kittens to use the litter box at only 3 weeks old. When it’s time to go to their forever homes at 8 weeks, most kittens will have the concept down. It’s instinctual for cats to cover their poop and pee.
This process usually only takes a few weeks to complete. After the first use, some kittens will catch on since they have a built-in desire to cover their waste.
Maybe you’ve seen videos of cats using the toilet—it seems far fetched, though, right? You might be surprised to know that not only is this possible, it’s also not as hard to teach as you might think. The core of the training is repetition. That means the more consistent you are during training, the better it will work in the long run.
Soon, you can remove the tray altogether.
Cats can begin marking their territory at sexual maturity, which is around 6 months. When they start, they might mark doorways, shoes, and other objects as a way to communicate that this is their turf—and warn other cats to stay away. They also use this action to attract potential mates.
Both males and females are capable of spraying. If a female is in heat, she might spray to attract a mate (especially if she can smell one close by). Males usually spray in a territorial fashion.
Unwanted Behavior Training
Let’s face it — there are lots of things our cats do that we might disapprove of—and that’s okay! There are ways to curb the behavior, it just might take patience on your part.
Since cats are so drastically different from dogs in the way they respond, you have to remember that they are entirely different species that require specific methods over others.
Should You Use a Spray Bottle?
A lot of cat owners picked up the concept of using a spray bottle to deter bad behavior. A cat hops on the counter and—squirt! Sure, cats absolutely hate it and probably will learn not to do the bad behavior, but is it the right teaching method?
There are some contradictory reports on this. Behaviorists explain that it’s unlikely cats will associate the spray bottle with their bad behavior—making it nearly ineffective. So, what does it teach instead?
They will start to associate the spray bottle with you. If they don’t know why you’re spraying them, it might lead to them fearing you instead of stopping the unwanted action.
Importance of Positive Reinforcement Training
In case you haven’t already picked up on it, cats don’t really handle ‘harsh’ discipline well. It might cause your cat to develop even worse behaviors as a result. So, you never want to handle your furry friend in a way that could lead to a bigger problem.
Often, cats don’t associate their bad behavior with punishment. Hitting, yelling, and other aggressive ways of handling your cat are more likely to make them feel differently about you and nothing more.
Positive reinforcement training allows you to reward good behavior by using their favorite thing—a treat. Each time your cat repeats a positive action, you should reward them with a delicious morsel. They are highly food motivated, so they will learn to associate good behavior with tasty rewards.
Training your cat is a fabulous idea, as it creates a well-balanced companionship where each of you benefits. Even though cats aren’t as dependent on your support and approval, they are still quite capable of learning concepts.
Remember that patience is the most important attribute you can offer. Your cat relies on you for understanding and overall care. Trust the process and keep to the training routine until it sticks.
Featured image credit: Soloveva Kseniia, Shutterstock