Why you should train your cat – and how to do it

The pandemic has led to a surge in first-time pet owners and adopters puppies and kittens. While even inexperienced owners assume that a new puppy needs some training, people rarely think the same is true of kittens.

But just like dogs cats need support to adapt to living with us. Simple forms of exercise can be good for your well-being.

Compared to dogs, cats have different historical relationships with humans. Cats have never been selectively bred to improve their ability to cooperate and communicate with us, or for work tasks such as herding, hunt or guard. However, research shows that they can recognize and respond to our subtle social cues and are trained to perform similar tasks as dogs.

However, we are unlikely to need a cat that “walks well” on a leash or settles down quietly in the pub. And cats usually need less support than dogs to master them toilet training – Providing the right litter box is usually sufficient.

But we’re missing a trick just thinking about training pets to make our lives easier. Myself and my colleague Daniel Cummings of animal welfare organization Cats Protection would argue that there are many potential benefits for the cat as well. In an emergency shelter e.g. education can be a useful tool for improving a cat’s exploratory behavior, positive responses to people, and maybe even their chances of being adopted.

At home, we can use simple techniques to help cats become comfortable in a carrier, adjust to car rides, and tolerate being groomed and receive basic health screening and treatment. Such training can also help cats cope better with vet visits.

What works

cats are not born with an innate affinity for humans and need to be exposed to gentle, warm handling from two weeks of age so they can learn that we are friend rather than foe. There is limited evidence that younger cats are more attentive to our social cues, which could mean they are more amenable to training. Kittens should also be played with cat wands or fishing rod toys so they learn not to attack our hands or feet.

Punishments such as yelling, rough treatment, or using a water jet can cause it emphasize and affect the quality of the owner-cat relationship. Always use positive reinforcement (like treats and praise). This is not only the most effective way train petsbut it is also better for their well-being.

Reward-based techniques can be an excellent way to teach a cat to get into a carrier on her own or to sit still while we perform her flea treatment. Some very friendly, food-motivated cats may enjoy being taught how to give a high five or how to sit or turn.

But cats are often less motivated than dogs to pay attention to us or do what we ask, especially in situations where they don’t feel comfortable. These factors could explain the high dropout rates in studies training cats to pay attention to human social cues.

cats In a place where your cat already feels safe, teach her to perch on a blanket (Source: Pixabay)

It’s important that we make sure the cat is in a place where she’s comfortable when we’re training her. Always make sure the cat has an opportunity to walk away or end the session when it wants, and try to give it a break if it’s uncomfortable. Signs to look out for include turning the cat’s head away, licking its nose, shaking its head, and raising it pawsudden seizures of self carehunched or tense-looking, a twitching or throbbing tail, and twisted or flattened ears.

Here’s how to teach your cat to get into a carrier and calm down in five easy steps:

1. Curl her onto a blanket

In a place where your cat already feels safe, teach her to calm down on one ceiling. Do this by luring the cat onto the blanket with food.

Reward the cat for staying on the blanket with more treats, petting, or verbal praise, depending on what your cat likes best. Feed treats at nose level, then get them into a sitting position feed treats at floor level to get the cat to crouch and eventually lie down on the ceiling.

2. Introduce the wearer

Once your cat has mastered step one, place the blanket on the bottom of a carrier with the lid removed. Repeat the same enticing and rewarding steps.

3. Take it slow

When your cat rests happily on it ceiling In the pet carrier, place the lid on the pet carrier (without attaching the door) and repeat the lure and reward process.

4. Let your cat set the pace

After your cat has happily entered and settled into the carrier, place the door on the carrier but leave it open for now so she doesn’t suddenly feel trapped inside. Let them exit the carrier whenever they want and use treats to encourage them to get back in. Start closing the door slightly in small movements, and then open it again, giving the cat a treat each time. Build this up slowly until the door can be closed completely (only for a few seconds at first) while the cat is still comfortable. Feed the cat treats through the closed door.

5. Almost there

Work towards the cat staying in the carrier with the door closed for a longer period of time, adding a few extra seconds each time. Continue to reward the cat by inserting treats through the sides or door of the carrier and gradually increasing the time between treat deliveries. Each training session should take no more than a few minutes total, and some cats may prefer just one session per day. It may take many sessions and many days or weeks to complete this last step.

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