Are you scoffing yet? “Train a cat?” you say. To do what? Sleep sixteen hours a day, beg for food, turn her nose up at the food, sprinkle litter throughout the house, leave fur on everything, scratch furniture, dive for the door when someone opens it, meow when you’re talking on the phone?
Yeah, that’s what cats do. Most of us would like to retrain cats from some of their natural habits or habits that maybe we allowed them to develop because—well, because she was so cute when she was a kitten. Sometimes we create the monster in our precious kitty-cats.
I once had a cat named Pom-Pom (my small children named her). She liked joining the family for supper, so the kids and I provided her own chair and let her sit at the table with us. How do you explain that to guests who, perhaps, aren’t as cat-friendly as you are—you know, those who believe cats have their place?
I’ve been guilty of confusing my poor cat when a guest comes in and sees the cat sitting on the kitchen table or counter. I’ll say, “No-no, Fluffy. You know you’re not allowed up there,” while lifting her down and sending her on her way. Talk about mixed messages for the poor cat, who often sits on the table.
So how do you train a cat? It depends on what you want him to do. A favorite treat is a good start—but you’d better be clear about how you want the cat to behave. You must be strictly consistent and clear in your “demands.” But be reasonable too. Is this something beneath the dignity of the cat? For some, no amount of treats is going to make him change or perform.
You must have a deep understanding of cats and your cat in particular. And it doesn’t hurt to choose a breed or a cat with just the right personality that is conducive to training. This is not all cats. I know of some who were rescued from shelters with just the right temperament, including some who have performed in movies. Samantha Martin, the woman behind Acro-Cats, the wonderful troupe of performing cats, adopted all of her cats from shelters.
If you have a desire to train your cat to embrace the cat carrier, for example, to stop inappropriate elimination outside the box, or to do a few tricks, put your paws on a good book on the topic or a video. There are so many for a variety of purposes, I won’t even try to advise. I suggest doing your own research to find the most appropriate teaching device for your situation and desires.
Read a lot of articles and books, and watch a lot of videos. Would love to hear the results.
As for training my own cats—in our house it’s the other way around. They have us trained to observe treat time and meal time. They know how to wake us up if we’ve slept in or randomly if they’re bored or they can see the bottom of the kibbles bowl.
I don’t know what books they’ve read or what videos they’ve watched, but they’ve done a pretty good job of teaching us our place.