You've probably heard the quote, "You can teach a cat to do anything he wants to do." That line pays tribute to the independent spirit of kitty. But did you know many cats want to please and may, on occasion, do something to hear your words of approval?
Many people don't think cats can be trained to do anything. Have you ever taught a cat to use a litter box? You probably have, and guess what; cats can learn much more than bathroom protocols.
What motivates a cat to learn?
According to many experts, positive reinforcement is the best way to train a cat. Providing an environment where your cat feels safe will help him learn. Never hit, spray, or yell at your cat, even if you get frustrated while trying to teach him something new. Focus on teaching him what you want, not what you don't want. If you are aggressive toward your kitty, he will learn - to distrust you.
Positive reinforcement means finding your cat's motivation. Most of the time, it's food rather than praise. Use treats to show your cat you approve of his behavior, and he will respond. For example, if you want your kitty to use the litter box rather than the floor around it, wait until you catch him using the box and immediately reward him with a yummy treat. Reward him with a treat if he lets you stroke his fur without scratching your hand. At some point, your cat will figure out what you want and how to get his treat.
Three things you can quickly teach a cat
Touch is OK
Having shared my home with many cats throughout the years, I applaud the person who once said a cat's first lesson in life should be to allow humans to touch them without scratching or biting.
To teach your cat to be gentle when you reach out a hand, you must show him your hands are not to be feared. Show your cat your hands mean something good. Some experts encourage rubbing your cat's favorite treat or something else he finds irresistible on your hands before attempting to touch him. When he licks your hand, say something like, "easy" or "gentle" and immediately give him a treat. Of course, you will pull your hands away if he gets agitated.
Come here, please
Cat behavior experts say this is an easy one. They recommend putting treats in a container that makes a lot of noise when shaken. Get your cat used to the sound. Shake, say "come," then reward them when they come to you. Your cat will eventually understand that when they dash over to you when you say, "come," they will get a treat.
The carrier is safe
Sometimes you will need to transport your cat to the vet or other destination outside the home. The goal is for your cat to enter the carrier happily. If your cat runs and hides when he sees the carrier, try bringing it out a few days before you'll be using it. Some experts suggest leaving his food inside during the time, with the door open. If kitty should enter the carrier to get to the food, reward him with a special treat. Repeat this many times before the "big day."
Overall, patience is the "cattitude" you need to train your cat successfully. TIP: Hands out treats only while training. Please don't allow your cat to start demanding a treat at any other time, or they will always want to get a reward for doing nothing.