So you think that you can't train your kitten, huh? Perhaps you've heard somewhere that cats can't be taught tricks because of their independent nature, or maybe you've just never heard of anyone teaching cats to do tricks. Well, most cats can learn various tricks, though a debate sometimes rages as to whether the owners are training the cats, or the cats are training the owners.
As with any animal, it's best to start training cats when they're still kittens; they're more likely to pick up on the training if it occurs before they've grown set in their ways. Below are a few simple tricks that you can attempt to teach your kitten. Be warned, however, that some cats don't take to training well, and it may take considerably longer to teach a cat things that a dog might learn in an afternoon.
Name: Teach your cat to recognize its name by calling out the name at feeding time and whenever you give it a treat. Try to choose a name that's different from anyone in the household to help prevent confusion. In time, the cat will come to you (or at least show interest) whenever it hears the name.
Leash/Collar: Much like a dog, a cat can be trained to use a collar and leash. Put the collar on it for increasingly longer periods, gradually letting it get used to the idea of wearing the collar. Once it's used to the collar, begin the same treatment with the leash, letting the cat get used to the limitations of the leash. You'll soon be able to take the cat out for a walk on the leash (likely to the amusement and amazement of your neighbors).
Sit: Give the "Sit" command at feeding time, moving the cat's food dish over its head. This will often cause the cat to sit down while watching the dish in anticipation of the food (you can also do this with a cat treat.) If the cat doesn't sit, press gently on its rump to push it into the sitting position. In time, the cat will associate the command with eating, and will sit down as it's become used to doing.
Come: Give the "Come" command while offering a treat or favorite toy. When the cat comes to receive the treat, pet it and give the treat. The cat will learn to associate the command with the treat, and will come when you call.
Fetch: A slightly more difficult trick, this plays off of the inclination that most cats have toward chasing objects. Give the command of "Fetch" and throw a ball or toy; the cat will likely chase after it. Once the cat has caught whatever you have thrown, "exchange" item for a treat. Once the cat has gotten used to this exchange, stay a bit farther away from the cat and offer the treat; if the cat drops the item, offer it the item, and then exchange the item for the treat. Eventually, the cat will figure out how the exchange works and that it has to bring you the item to get the treat.
Of course, you'll have to continue to treat the cats for performing any of these tricks periodically. Otherwise, they'll realize that there's no benefit and simply refuse to perform. Should you see a lack of progress, don't get frustrated; cats can be hard to train. Just stick with it.
The most common reason a cat will not use its litter box...
Because the litter box is dirty - from the cat's viewpoint, not yours. Cats often react to any type of stress by suddenly urinating or defecating outside the litter box. The stress may be caused by a new cat in the neighborhood; children home on vacation; too many cats in the house; your going away on vacation or a new piece of furniture. Urinary tract problems also cause cats to urinate in places other than the litter box. Any sudden change in elimination habits should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Prevent House Soiling
Until your cat is reliably house trained, she should not have free run of your home. If your cat continually makes mistakes, the behavior can simply become a habit. Punishing a cat after the fact teaches her to be afraid of you. Scolding and then taking the cat to her litter box after she has already eliminated teaches her to associate the litter box with punishment. Basically, punishment doesn't work with cats: prevention and praise for getting it right are the keys to training. When you leave the house for any length of time, your cat should be confined to a single room, preferably one with non-porous floors, such as a kitchen, bathroom, utility room, basement or garage. Provide your cat with a bowl of water and a warm place to sleep at one end of the room and a freshly cleaned litter box at the other end. Until the house soiling has been cured, your cat should have a regular feeding schedule so she will develop a corresponding elimination schedule.
The Litter Box
Your cat does not simply need a litter box - she needs a clean litter box with fresh litter. Your cat will be inhibited from using her litter box if it smells of urine. Think about it from the cat's viewpoint. When she soils your dining room carpet, the area is immediately and thoroughly cleaned. Given the choice between a regularly cleaned place and a litter box that gets changed only once or twice a week, your cat will naturally prefer the carpet.
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Getting Started: Clicker Training for Cats
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