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Obedience Training in Cats 101

Like how misbehaviour is no excuse for a dog, it shouldn't be for a cat as well. Our notorious kitties can often be up to no good, especially when no one's looking. Irrespective of whether your cat is naughty or not, it is best for every pet to know the rules of the household - just so that we can have more memories filled with unconditional love and unbridled joy instead of ones where we are correcting them for rummaging through trash, stealing food from counters, scratching furniture, yowling unnecessarily, toileting outside the litterbox, and running away from home.

Before Training Your Cat

Training cats is very different from training dogs. Although the commands might be the same, cats need what's called a pre-training session.

Socialisation is of utmost importance before attempting to train - well-socialised cats are better learners because they are more comfortable with touch and far more confident around you/trainer. 

It is best to socialise a cat between the age of three and seven weeks since they are more receptive to change and social interaction. Most often, after seven weeks, kittens start to become more aware, apprehensive, and cautious of their surroundings. But, that doesn't mean that you can't socialise an adult cat, it just takes longer and requires more time, effort, and patience.

How to socialise your cat:

Handling

Handle your kitten/cat for five minutes every two hours a day. Handling can be done in a variety of ways - gently carrying, touching belly, touching paws, cradling etc. Handling encourages cats to feel comfortable with touch and confident with allowing humans into their private space every once in a while.

New People, New Experiences

This might be hard for older cats and requires repeated, consistent effort. Ask people who meet your cat for the first time to drop a treat in front of him/her without making any eye contact. This helps a cat establish a positive relationship with the presence of different people. Over time, you can ask the same people to 'handle' your cat.


Obedience Training in Cats 101

Always remember that the way cats learn is far from the way a dog does. Since very little is known and explored in the field of cat training, people often use dog training methods on cats, and this always does more harm than good. 

The rules for training a cat are -

Short sessions: Cats get bored quickly and need no more than 15 minutes per training session. Depending on how free you are, you can have two-three training sessions per day. 

Never, ever punish: No pet responds well to negative reinforcement. This only intensifies stress, fear, withdrawal, anxiety, and aggression.

Make training fun: Training is best enjoyed when it is kept fun, interactive, and engaging. 

Positive reinforcement and Patience: They're not the best pets when it comes to adhering to 'sit', 'stay', 'come' etc. But, they like to work with their people, and as long as it is patient and positive reinforcement training, you should be well on your way to a well-behaved cat.


Come

Why is it necessary?

Runaway cat? Since cats are easily distracted by anything that's moving, they will chase after it. This chase often leads them to dangerous places where they can't find their way back. Running away also happens when another cat is in heat. 

How to train?

Crinkle a packet of your cat's most favourite treats to get her attention. When your cat comes to you, praise her with a treat and use the cue 'come'. Try this again from a further distance, and then gradually move on to covering larger areas. 

How long to practice?

Practice this for 3 five -minute sessions a day. During each session, repeat the command training at least fifteen times. 


Crate/Bed Training

Why is it necessary?

If you have a cat who is nervous when new people arrive, training her to go to her bed/crate in a quiet, well-ventilated, closed room can help to make her feel less stressed. Crate training is also helpful when taking cats to the vet.

How to train?

You can teach your cat about her new safe place by feeding meals inside the room where the crate/bed is placed. Once your cat feels comfortable with the crate, you can close its door, if you wish. 

How long to practice?

Practice this five times a day.


Use the litter box

Why is it necessary?

Most cats use the litter box without training, but toileting accidents can happen from time to time. Remember to have two litter boxes per cat.

How to train?

Choose a spot that has access to clean water, fresh food, toys, and a bed - this is all until your cat learns to use the box. When everything they need is in one place, cats are more likely to use the box than look elsewhere for a toilet. Once he is used to relieving himself in the litter box, you can shift the bowls to your desired place.

How long to practice?

After every meal!

Leave It

Why is it necessary?

Most cat parents are accustomed to getting gifts from their cat - dead animals mostly. When you don't want your cat to eat or play with something because it might be dangerous or simply not to be played with, the command 'leave it' is most helpful in such situations.

How to train?

Place a treat in your hand and allow your cat to sniff it. Draw your hand away if she tries to reach for it; however, if she leaves it alone, praise her and reward her with another treat - not the one in your palm. Every time she comes close to the treat, gently say 'leave-it', and reward with another treat.

How long to practice?

Practice this for 3 five -minute sessions a day. During each session, repeat the command training at least fifteen times. 


Use the scratch post

Why is it necessary?

You don't want furniture ruined, do you?

How to train?

Hold a treat above the scratch post, and wait for your cat's nails to reach the surface of the post. When they do, reward and praise with a treat. Now, move the treat along the length of the scratch post to encourage 'scratching' - it is most likely that your cat's eyes will follow the treat, and her paws will follow her eyes. 

How long to practice?

Twice to thrice a day

A cat with little to no manners runs the household in ways that aren't beneficial to anyone. The earlier you train your cat to be well-behaved, the better for the both of you. Mis-behaved cats are often under stress from the external environment, and this can result in aggression. Hence, when you teach your cat to respect boundaries, it forms a stronger bond with you and your family.