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Can My Cat Be Trained?

Can My Cat Be Trained?

Contrary to what most people think, cats can be trained. Whether you want to correct or discourage a particular behavior, or train your cat to walk on a leash, there are several methods you can try that often show good results.

Before you want to change or discourage a behavior, make sure medical causes are ruled out. Let’s say your cat is eliminating outside the litter box. A visit to your veterinarian can determine if she has a possible urinary tract infection, for example.

Cats Learn by Experience

In addition, one thing you should understand before you start training your cat is that she learns by experience. If the experience is satisfying and worth the effort, she will repeat whatever it was you wanted her to do. If there’s something that you don't want your cat to do, don’t reward the behavior or make the consequences fun; only encourage desired behaviors with positive reinforcement (e.g., affection/treats). Never physically punish or yell at your cat. Negative reinforcement does not work when training. Even if you catch your cat with her paws in the cookie jar, she will only act out when you are not around. If you punish the cat after the misdeed was done, she will not put two-and-two together and associate your words with the misconduct. You will also be training her to be suspicious of you and the problem will probably continue. Above all, some cats are naughty just to get attention and the attention, even if it is negative, is a reward in itself. So what can you do?

No more negative reinforcement

Strengthen your relationship with your cat and make your time together entertaining, satisfying and appealing. If your cat is bored, but ultra active, she might get destructive by scratching the furniture or chewing on inappropriate items such as electrical wires. Play with her everyday; even a massage can help calm her down. If your cat is feeling neglected, unwanted behavior may be just the thing she’ll do to get noticed.

Using rewards

This is one of the most effective methods when training your cat. Remember to praise her for good behavior and reward her with a little gift, such as a new toy or something she can safely chew on such as a favorite toy or treat. Positive reinforcement is one of the best motivators.

Discourage undesired behavior

An effective, non-toxic way to deter your cat’s bad chewing behavior is to apply bitter apple spray to the problem area such as rugs or upholstery. For electrical wires, split polyethylene tubing can be used for wrapping up wires.

You might think that your cat is totally independent and self-sufficient but she can still benefit from some training. Many behaviors deserve teaching because they are both good for your cat’s health and safety.