You may be training your cat wrong… without knowing it
Thursday, April 8th, 2021
Typically when you hear of training a pet, your immediate thought goes to dogs. Cats hardly ever seem to enter into that conversation, but that is all about to change. Cats are perceived to be highly independent, stubborn, and bursting of free will, and, while that is true, those attributes have led humans to assume training their cat is unnecessary and impossible. This is the first mistake many cat-owners make and nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, a cat can be taught certain behaviors that benefit both it and its human companion.
The fact of the matter is, by not actively training your cat, you are in fact training your cat. This often ends up with the cat learning the exact behaviors you don’t want them to learn. It’s a confusing and vicious circle. Let me try to explain. Have you ever yelled “stop!” at your cat for doing something like clawing at the furniture and then picked them up to move them away from said furniture? While it may feel like you’re correcting the bad behavior, instead you are inadvertently rewarding it by offering attention. Therefore, the cat will continue the behavior that is getting them the reaction that they like. Not good. So, how do you fix it? It’s simple really. Just reverse what you were doing before. Reward the good behavior and pay no attention to the bad behavior.
It’s all about the power of positivity and patience. Trust us, you’ll need it. Attempting to unlearn a behavior is a very difficult thing to do for an animal. It’s also a difficult time for the pet-parents who have to endure the “extinction burst”. This is the time where you have to stay strong and stick to your plan because your cat will begin trying everything and anything to get your attention doing the behavior you once unknowingly rewarded them for. Meowing ten times louder, scratching the furniture more, urinating more… you get the picture. It’s difficult and you may want to pull your hair out, but the reward is entirely worth it. Once this time is over, then you can really get into training your cat new, positive behaviors!
As you begin training remember these important tips: (1) be sure to use food rewards your cat is excited about, (2) train in very short sessions, (3) don’t force them to progress too quickly, and (4), the most important of all, be loving and be positive. The effort to train your cat is worth it. It makes it easier for you to care for them and it allows you and your cat to bond and build a loving, trusting relationship.
National Geographic | www.nationalgeographic.com