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In order to fully understand the process of training a cat, you must be able to understand common feline behaviors and correctly interpret them. By understanding your cat better and by using this understanding to better communicate with your cat, you will have more success in training the often stubborn cat. Cats have their own personalities and traits. Half the fun of owning a pet is learning, “who” the little personality is that lives with you. There are many books that cover the basics of cat language and behavior, so I will not cover them in detail here.

I happen to have very individualistic felines, and I’m sure that most owners feel the same way. Most of my 6 cats are well behaved and only have occasional fights amongst each other. All my cats are trained to stay off the kitchen table and counter tops. They are also box trained and claw trained, the latter meaning they don’t climb the curtains or sharpen their claws in unapproved areas.

Affection is the key to training, and I feel it’s more successful than rewarding with treats. I never hit my cats. I use a stern vocal tone and tap the nose with my index finger. In more extreme cases, I use a plant mister with the setting at stream, just like a squirt gun. Vocal admonishment and squirting are quite disturbing for felines and will be remembered for some time. Felines have very sensitive ears and the raising of vocal tones causes discomfort. Very few cats like water, most abhorring it. Both modes of discipline are physically safe, but unnerving enough to engender good behavior.

Most cats learn by imitation, and will be somewhat trained when you adopt them. They learn cleaning habits as well as box training from their mother. Many will also learn bad habits from their Mother and other siblings. Aggressive behaviors are the most common training issues in young kittens. When aggressive behaviors (such as severe biting and playing with claws extended) are observed a stern reminder and a tap on the nose is usually all that is required. I have had stubborn felines that required water reinforcement rather than the finger tap. Regardless, both methods only need be applied a few times, as smarter animals will learn within the first two discipline episodes.

After awhile, just raising my voice or merely shaking the water bottle is enough to stop the undesired behavior on the spot. I continue with these behavior modifications, relying also on the other cats as a good model, as needed.

In addition to learning house rules, many felines are intelligent enough to be trained to open doors, use windows for home access instead of a pet door, and even use the toilet, eliminating the need for a cat box (how nice!). In the case of the latter, kits are available that ease the cat, over a series of weeks, into and on top of the toilet. Ultimate success rests on the temperament of the individual and consistent affection and reinforcement. My favorite part of training my cats is praising them for good behavior. I have turned all my cats and kittens into love junkies. This loving relationship moves mountains when it comes to stubborn pets.

In some instances, a new undesirable trait will emerge due to a temporary or long term stress introduced in the household. Anything from remodeling to introducing a baby or a new pet into the environment can trigger these behaviors. Again, positive reinforcement and doses of extra loving care are required. In some instanced, medications may be needed to ease the situation. It is always a good idea to visit or call your veterinarian in these situations. Many are specially trained in abnormal animal psychology and can often prescribe a temporary treatment, with gradual reduction in medication and desensitizing training. Such methods can reduce stress in the entire household, making everyone happier and healthier. Abnormal behavior is the major cause of pet euthanasia, and is often avoidable. Some owners will mistakenly believe that the animal will find a new home in a shelter. The stark reality is that if the behavior is never corrected, the animal with be put down due to non-adoption or at another owners request.

My favorite books for reference when I have a question or concern are listed below. Read them and gain valuable insight from the doctors and physicians listed.

List of Works Consulted

Hammond, Sean and Carolyn Usrey. How to Raise a Sane and Healthy Cat. New York:
Howell Book House, 1994.

Dodman, Nicholas, The Cat Who Cried for Help. New York: Bantam, 1997.

Cornell University. The Cornell Book of Cats. Ed. Mordecai Siegal. New York: Villard, 1997.