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Cat Training - How, Why, and When to Train a Cat

Cat Training and Cat Behavior Modification


Cat Training should not be a secret tool of cat behaviorists. In fact, cat training can be learned and practiced at home, given enough motivation for both you and the cat. You are motivated to train a cat because of destructive, or dangerous cat behavior. Your job is to motivate the cat so that cat training will be effective and in many cases, a rewarding experience.



Effective Cat Training can be Boiled Down to Two Methods:

  1. Discourage Bad Cat Behavior
  2. Reward Good Cat Behavior
First, however, it is very important to find out if a given problem is "bad behavior," or if the cat is trying to communicate a problem.


1. Cat Training Rule #1: Rule out Medical Causes First

Photo of Large Cat Using Breeze Litter System
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy

While other cat medical problems may be recognizable as such, cats' peeing outside the box is often viewed as a behavior problem. Time and time again, I've seen statements such as "The Cat is mad at me because...," or "He's getting back at me for..."

The fact is that, along with a dirty litter box, a serious urinary tract infection is the #1 reason for cat urinating outside the litter box. You see the cat doesn't know he is sick. He knows that he has pain when he pees in the box, so with his limited reasoning skills, he associates the litter box with the pain. He then looks elsewhere for a place to urinate.

If your cat suddenly starts peeing outside the box, take him to your vet right away! Don't risk your cat's health by delaying.

2. Cat Training Rule #2: Natural Behavior is NOT a Problem

Cat scratching a scratching post
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy

Yes, there's no denying that cats' scratching and clawing can be destructive, when the target is the arm of a sofa. Yet a cat's need to scratch is entirely natural. A cat's claws are versatile, multi-purpose tools. Cats use their retractable claws every day, for climbing, scratching, pouncing, turning, balancing, or defending themselves. The exercise they get during clawing sessions helps build supple muscles and strong tendons and bones. Cats do not scratch furniture with malicious intent. Scratching is part of their regular self-maintenance program to keep their claws nice and sharp for self defense.

Cat training for destructive scratching is so simple that it is unfathomable that anyone would ever consider declawing as a solution.

3. Cat Training to Correct Dangerous Behavior Problems

While some chewing is clearly just destructive, chewing on objects such as electrical wires and computer cables can be downright dangerous. The two-step process of cat training is clearly indicated here:

  1. Discourage the Behavior
    With cable wires, they can be protected with plastic tubing. Bitter Apple spray is also effective on objects such as rubber-soled shoes and poisonous plants.
  2. Reward Good Behavior
    Destructive chewing by kittens is often a result of teething. Their little gums are sore, and biting on hard surfaces seems to help. Large plastic straws are a perfect way to draw a kitten's attention toward an object they can safely chew. The payoff is the crunchy texture, pain relief, and fun play.


4. Cat Training - Training a Cat to Walk on a Leash

Cat in a Walking Jacket and Leash
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy

Cat training is needed when a cat has had a taste of outdoor exploring and makes a dash for the door every time it's opened. Cats should not be allowed outdoors without close supervision, which usually means while on a leash.

Walking a cat on a leash can be a pleasurable experience for both the human and the cat, and definitely safer for the cat than allowing him to roam freely.

Readers Respond: Have you had success solving a cat behavioral problem? Share your Tips Here!

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