Cats are unlikely to learn how to guide a blind person. They might leap at the opportunity to ‘sit-stay’ – but they’ll leap when you want them to sit-stay, and sit when you need a leap. Most cat training is just about making the beast more comfortable and well-behaved in mixed company.
Can you train a cat?
When you bring a kitten into your life, you may resign yourself to the idea that the creature will basically go its own way and there’s nothing you can do about.
There is an element of truth there. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to train your cat out of particular bad, offensive, or violent behaviours that it develops.
Your cat won’t be as responsive to instruction or suggestion as a dog. And its attention span is pretty short. But follow our tips on how to train a cat, and you will hopefully see a least a little improvement in the fiend’s behaviour.
Cat training tip #1: Keep it short and sweet
Whether he’s a top-of-the-class scholar or the class joker, a dog will enjoy being trained because he gets to spend quality time with his people and enjoy the occasional biscuit.
Your cat, quite frankly, has better things to do. Its attention span is pretty low on the “wow” to “not-bothered” spectrum. So make your training sessions short. Concentrate on just one command in each session.
You might want to try doing impromptu classes, since you can’t depend on your cat showing up. Get on with your life but, when you spot moggo nearby, quickly declare school open and hold a class.
Cat training tip #2: Keep the treats handy
You may have heard of positive reinforcement training. With dogs, this means that you should only give your dog encouragement, compliments, and treats while training him – never tell him off. It just works better.
The same principle applies with cats. Except that as you’ll have noticed, your cat doesn’t care what you think. Telling it that it’s a “good kitty” is a waste of breath. The only reason the creature turned up for class is for those sweet, sweet kitty treats. So be sure to feed it one whenever it does what it’s supposed to.
Cat training tip #3: Start young
No cat is going to have much time for your instructions. But a younger one will be a bit more impressionable than an older one. Don’t leave training too late.
Remember, the later you wait to start training, the more damage the kitten will do in the meantime! Proper training can reduce the amount of furniture it tears up, stop it jumping on counters (and babies), and also get that ‘intelligence’ stimulated and functioning as soon as possible.
Cat training tip #4: Identify a course plan
As mentioned above, trying to teach kitty two things at once is a recipe for disaster. From the day you bring the beast home, note the behaviours it does that you find unacceptable. Then work on them one by one.
Things that you might want to train your cat to stop doing include: biting people; chewing and scratching furniture; peeing and spraying everywhere; aggression; fear and anxiety; and compulsive habits such as scratching or biting itself.
Cat training tip #5: Provide student support services for your cat
A cat who persists in behaviours like those mentioned might not just be badly-behaved. It might have an underlying emotional or health issue that’s causing it to act out. This is another reason why punishment is not a good idea, no matter how much moggy may seem to be provoking you.
If you notice that the cat’s behaviour doesn’t improve, observe the creature carefully. There may be a noise outside of the house that’s disturbing the cat. It may be getting bullied by another cat.
It might be worth taking a particularly stubborn or bad-behaved cat to the vet. Your cat’s vet can make sure there’s no underlying issue, and recommend a behaviourist or some precise training instructions if necessary.
Your cat is never going to care about graduating with honours. But with time, patience, and empathy, you can at least keep it on the straight and narrow.