Those of us who live with cats, and even those of you who don’t, often confuse independence with aloofness. The true definition is self-sufficiency, and that, to me, translates to being smart.
t Ask any trainer, and she will tell you that training intelligent cats (and dogs) can be a challenge because the animal has her own way of thinking. That is why when it comes to training cats, you have to make it fun for both you and your cats.
t “It’s really about enrichment,” says Sherry Woodard, Best Friends animal behavior consultant, who sees herself as a translator and teacher between cat and human. “I translate behaviors people don’t understand about their cats.”
t At the top of Sherry’s list of training tips is getting your cat comfortable in a crate.”We usually pull out the crate once a year when we take our cats to the veterinarian for their annual visit,” she explains. “It’s a scary ordeal for them, and we often wind up chasing them throughout the house to get them inside the crate.” She says, “If your cat isn’t using her crate, try calling her a few times each day. When she is looking at you, place a tiny piece of her favorite treat next to her. Then using a few more small treats, place them closer to the crate. Next, place a slightly larger treat inside the crate and step away. Continue to do this on a daily basis until your cat gets used to being inside the crate. It’s important because in an emergency, you will want your cat to think positively about going inside her crate.”
t Following are a few more tips from Sherry Woodard on training your cat.
1. Find a good spot for the litter box
t Most cats know how to use the litter box. If, however, you find that your cats are doing their business elsewhere, think about where the box is located. “Many people place their cat’s litter box next to a noisy washing machine that dances across the floor,” says Sherry. “So look for a quiet spot. The other popular place is under a sink in the bathroom. If your cat isn’t using the litter box in the bathroom, try different litters and boxes. Some cats prefer open boxes without covers, others like the covers. Try both to see which ones your cat prefers.
2. Get everyone in the family to participate in the training
t The trick is working with your cat and trying to work in unison with your family. Telling a cat to do one thing, while your partner or child says the opposite, results in a frustrated cat who won’t listen.
3. Teach name recognition
t This is easy. Using a friendly voice, call you cat by her name. When she comes, reward her with a small treat. After a while, she will recognize her name, and come when you call her.
4. Try a harness
t Cats love to sniff the air, explore and roll around outside. You can teach your cat to walk wearing a harness. “First use the harness in the house a few times so your cat gets used to wearing it,” says Sherry. “When you are ready to take her outside, go slowly. Don’t let her dash for the door. If you do, you will have a cat that pulls and darts ahead of you. Start slow with a walk in front of your home, and then extend the walk. It’s great exercise for you and your cat.”
5. Stop negative behavior
t If your cat scratches the furniture, place two-sided tape where she likes to scratch. “She will think the sofa or chair is ruined, and won’t want to use it,” says Sherry. Place a few scratching posts near your furniture to give your cat an alternative place to scratch. Sherry recommends purchasing inexpensive cardboard cat scratching boxes that have catnip in them.
6. Limit the treats
t More than 54 percent of cats in the U.S. are overweight. So, limit the treats. Only use healthy treats that list meat or fish as the first ingredient, and give your cat a tiny amount.
t “While she will enjoy the treat, often she is responding to you,” says Sherry. “Interaction is the biggest benefit of training your cat, for both you and your cat. That is why I think of training as enrichment. It offers your cat mental stimulation. And when we interact with our cats, we bond with them.”
Photo credit: turn07007500/Getty Images
t Michele C. Hollow writes about pets and wildlife for numerous print and online publications. She oversees the animal advocacy blog Pet News and Views. She is also the author of The Everything Guide to Working with Animals.