How to Train Your New Cat, Understand your Cat Behavior
How to Train Your New Cat, Understand your Cat Behavior
You must train your cat to first of all, do essential things like using the litter box and not scratching up the furniture. Afterward, you can train it to do other nice but not that-essential things like coming when its name is called and not jumping up on the kitchen counter. I have trained my cats to jump in the air and gently bat my hand with their paw to let all the treats fall out.
The secret to essential cat training is establishing a routine and placing things properly. As mentioned earlier, you should not place the litter box right next to the food bowl. Provide some distance between the two or the cat will not be very eager to use either one of them. Also, make sure that there’s always a water bowl next to the food bowl. And do not move things around once your cat has become accustomed to the layout.
For the litter box, you can buy one from a pet shop, or simply use a standard open pan. You can use a covered box if you are concerned with odor. You can also put a mat under the box to minimize litter being scattered on the floor and around the room. Keep the box clean, scoop cat feces out at least once daily, and sweep any scattered dirt in the room. As much as possible, the litter box should be in a quiet, private place just for your cat, away from children and other pets. If you have more than one cat, it is recommended to have at least one extra litter pan.
You may need to experiment with various kinds or brands of litter to find which one your cat prefers. When you have discovered his favorite, stick to it. Stock up on this type of litter so you won’t run out.
Understanding a cat’s natural behavior also helps in training. By nature, cats are creatures of habit and they don’t like change. Cats are also fastidious animals, so remember to always clean the litter box. If it’s not clean, your cat may not use it all.
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Training your cat to eat on time is not as complicated. Just place food in their bowl during meal times: three times a day at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Remember to fill his water bowl too. Observe regular meal times to establish the daily routine. Unlike dogs, which will overeat if given the opportunity, cats are smart enough to stop eating when full. It is not necessary to have feeding times. You can simply just keep their dry cat food bowl full, and they will eat at their own leisure. This is especially nice if you have to leave them alone for a day or two. Simply make sure you have lots of food and water down, and they will be fine.
Train your cat to stop doing unwanted things like scratching the furniture, eating plants or jumping on the dinner table. You may feel like this is an impossible task at first, because cats seem to have a mind of their own. Don’t let this fool you. Cats are really highly trainable. They can be trained just like dogs.
The keys to training your cat are positive reinforcement, repetition, and a gentle yet firm attitude. Use tasty treats as positive reinforcement, to reward good behavior. As much as possible, do not use negative reinforcement. To stop unwanted behavior, use something to divert the cat’s attention away from what it was doing. Never yell at or hit your pet. At most, you can use a whistle, rattle, or squirt bottle. The idea is to surprise it enough to stop what it was doing, not to frighten it away. If you scare it, it will just run away and hide, without learning that it should not do what it was doing.
Be sensible enough to provide a suitable alternative for your cat’s unwanted behavior. For example, if you want it to stop scratching the couch, provide it with a scratching post or kitty condo. I personally use a water bottle when one of my cats is doing something bad, and they learn very quickly to stop doing the unwanted behavior. You can also use a certain tone of voice, which cats will soon learn means they are doing something naughty.
You can buy tasty treats for positive reinforcement at any pet store. Or you can make your own. Examples are tuna bits, diced fresh chicken in small cubes, and chicken- or beef-flavored baby food. When your cat does something favorable, like coming to you when you call its name, reward it with a tasty treat. Do this repeatedly, each time it does the desired action.
Here’s a sample training technique you can use to teach your cat to sit. The first step is to get its attention. Do this by holding a tasty treat right in front of your cat, near its nose. When it begins to sniff the food, slowly move the treat upwards in an arc (not straight up) from its nose to above its head. Your cat will follow the arc movement with its eyes, raising its chin up and back as it does so, and at the same time moving its butt down on the floor. At the moment it is in the sitting position, praise your pet and give it the tasty treat.
You need to be patient, as its butt may not touch the floor on the first few attempts. Just do it again and again until your pet gets it. But remember to be sensible. When your pet gets tired, give it a rest. Repeat the training session another time. It is, in fact, a good idea to keep each training period short. A few minutes usually suffices. If you make it longer than this, the cat will likely just get bored and ignore you.
A useful device to use in training your cat is a clicker. If you don’t have one, just use a pen or anything else that makes a clicking sound. Whenever your cat does the correct behavior, use the clicker at that very instant and then offer your cat a treat. It is imperative that you click just at the instant that your cat does the correct behavior. Otherwise, it won’t learn to recognize what it is exactly that it did right and should repeat again. When your cat recognizes the behavior you want, it will happily do it again and again.
It is also a good idea to pick your cat up a lot. This gets them used to humans and allows them to be much friendlier over time. In the beginning they may struggle a bit, so giving them a treat after picking them up is a good idea. I pick my cats up all the time and carry them around, and people are always impressed at how friendly they are. Cats prefer to be picked up so that there head is up and there feet are facing the ground.
They feel more in control this way. However, we humans tend to love to cradle cats in our arms like a baby. With repeated efforts, you can do this with little problems, just remember that in stressful situations, it is best to pick a cat up under the belly and hold it so that it feels comfortable, otherwise they may use their super strength to break free of your grasp if anything frightens them.
The no-punishment rule bears repeating here. Never hit, shout at, or scare your cat. This is very stressful for the pet, and stress can lead to problem behaviors and even health issues. Overly stressed cats are more prone to diseases such as inflammation of the bladder (called feline idiopathic cystitis). Some signs of stress to watch out for are compulsive grooming, defecating outside the litter box, and hiding away from people.
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Like playtime, training is good for your cat (and yourself). To a cat, training it is a great mental workout, as well as a welcome break from long hours of doing nothing in the case of pet owners who are away from home a lot. Trained cats are happier and healthier, and therefore more easy-going. They are also calmer even when their owners are away.
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