Just like their canine counterparts, cats can learn certain behaviors and tricks with enough training and patience. Even a cat who appears stubborn and unwilling to listen to you will do so given the right motivation. While he might not seek praise the way a dog does, tempting cat treats can certainly get Fluffy in the mood for a training session.
When training your feline companion, have some high-value treats on hand to tempt Fluffy into performing the behavior you want from him. This means that you should skip using your kitty's usual kibble and instead opt for small pieces of cooked chicken, low-sodium tuna, beef or liver. Train your kitty prior to meals so that he's hungry and more likely to work for treats. Keep training sessions short, to no more than a few minutes at a time. Avoid punishing or reprimanding Fluffy during training, which will only stress him out, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Accentuate the Positive
When training Fluffy, reward him for performing the behavior you want from him and ignore the behavior that you don't. If you catch your kitty doing something you want, such as scratching a new post or using the litter box correctly, reward him with a yummy treat. Have something good waiting for your cat each time you call for him so that he'll eventually come reliably when called. You can lure him into the behaviors you want, such as holding a treat over his head to force him to sit and rewarding him when he does. If he paws at your hand when you're holding treats, teach him to give you a "high five," playing on his natural curiosity.
Use mild aversives to discourage Fluffy's unwanted behaviors, recommends the Paws Companions website. Cover surfaces you don't want your kitty to walk on or scratch with double-sided tape or aluminum foil. Prevent Fluffy's access to areas of your home where he's inappropriately eliminated. Remember to give your kitty acceptable alternatives to redirect his unwanted behaviors, such as a tempting scratching post covered in catnip or a large litter box that's scooped twice daily. If you don't want your cat on your counters or other areas that are elevated, install some cat shelves on a wall nearby for him to hang out on instead. Reward your cat for utilizing his alternative options with some yummy treats.
Repetition and Consistency
It's important to repeat your kitty's training regularly, to regularly reinforce it. You can also use a clicker when training your kitty to mark specific behaviors that you want from him. Clicker training works much the same with cats as it does with dogs. Simply click the device and treat Fluffy until he associates the click with a reward. Issue commands and click when Fluffy responds to them correctly, then treat him. Have everyone in the home work with your kitty and use the same commands for the behaviors you want so that he doesn't get confused. While it may take a little time, with consistent training and positive reinforcement, your stubbornly independent kitty will soon be obeying your commands.
- Animal Planet: How to Solve Cat Behavior Problems
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Training Your Cat
- Petfinder: How to Teach a Cat Tricks
- The Humane Society of the United States: Training Your Cat With Positive Reinforcement
- Purina: Cat Training -- It's Easier Than You Think
- Bayer HealthCare: About Cats
- Paws Companions: Aversives for Cats
- Cats on the Counter: Therapy and Training for Your Cat; Larry Lachman and Frank Mickadeit
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Training Cats and Dogs
- Medicine Hat SPCA: Dog vs. Cat: Which Makes a Better Pet?
- Photo Credit John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images