You cannot train cats in quite the same way that you train dogs – which is exactly why we love felines so much; their unique personality.
Despite this, the concept behind training a dog or cat is the same: reward good behaviour and discourage bad behaviour. By establishing certain routines and understanding your cat’s behaviour, you will make life easier for yourself and more enjoyable for your kitty. You can even teach your cat to go for a walk on a leash.
It is important for your cat to recognise its name, and by calling it at feeding and bedtime, it will soon learn to respond. Do not provoke a cat or try to get it to obey you by shouting!
With a bare minimum of training, a cat will no longer be a menace to your floors or furniture. Provide a scratching post to stop kitty from ruining your furniture. If your cat is allowed outdoors it will probably find a piece of bark on which to sharpen its claws, otherwise a vertical post covered in carpeting is ideal.
Provide a few interesting toys like a catnip mouse or ball of wool for it to stalk and catch, thereby satisfying his strong hunting instinct. Better still, set aside some time each day to play with the kitty – the contented purr as it lies in your lap at the end of each day is the best reward! Cats need stimuli to keep them from boredom, frustration and consequent destructive behaviour.
When it comes to toilet training you can teach a kitten as young as four weeks to use a litter tray by immediately placing it in the tray as it begins to crouch. If a kitten relieves itself outside of the tray do not rub its nose in the mess – the odour will tell the kitten that this is its toilet and it will return to it. Cats are fastidious animals and by instinct they prefer to bury their “business”.
Watch your kitten carefully and if you see signs that she is about to go pee or poop, gently pick her up without a fuss and, without scaring her, place her in the litter box. Take one of her paws and scratch the litter with it. Because she can dig in the litter her natural instincts should take over.
If the kitten uses the litter box give her lots of praise. If she doesn’t use it don’t force the issue. You must never use a raised voice or make her afraid of the litter tray in any way. If you make too much of a scene around the litter tray, she may begin to associate it with negative things and could stay away.
Other signs that a kitten needs to go is that she will begin scratching at the floor or she will often go into a corner, behind a couch or to a quiet area. Be observant and watch your kitten’s behaviour.
The concept behind training a dog or cat is the same: reward good behaviour and discourage bad behaviour…
There are many different types of litter boxes but basically you need a box that gives your kitten plenty of room to move around in and it must also have sides that are low enough for your kitten to climb over.
People don’t usually take cats out on a leash, but most cats can, with careful rewarding and much patience, be taught to accept a leash. I’d recommend you find a comfortable, light harness and leash from your pet store. You can also get a walking jacket for cats in some stores, which will also work. Do not use a leash that is tied to the cat’s neck collar.
Leave the leash and harness in your pet’s sleeping area so that she can get used to its smell. After a few days you can try put the harness on the cat for short periods of times, just before you feed her. Give her lots of praise during these periods and try distracting her with some playtime if the harness distresses her.
The idea is to leave the harness on her for increasingly longer periods over a number of days and take it off when she seems comfortable with wearing it. Make sure that the harness is not too tight and that you can fit two finger between it and her skin.
After around a week of repeating these steps, attach the leash to the harness and let her walk around the house. Make sure you’re watching and that it does not get caught or stuck anywhere.
After a few days, start occasionally picking up the end of the leash and follow her around as she walks. Do not pull on the leash at first. When she is eventually comfortable, slowly and without too much force start slightly pulling on the leash until she is happy to be guided by you. Then you can move the process into your garden and then eventually outside the house.
The idea is to always praise your kitty and reward her for wearing the harness and leash. If you associate any negativity or stress with the process you will only make things more difficult.
Teaching your kitty good manners is also imperative. It’s important to introduce kittens to new experiences with people and other cats and dogs while they are still young enough to take everything in their stride.
As soon as they are old enough to move around independently, kittens will approach new situations fearlessly. Their first big learning period begins at about three weeks, when the eyes and ears first open and they start to explore the big wide world around them.
Here are some additional tips on how to train your cat to have good manners:
- Invite people to your home to help your kitten get used to people of different sexes, ages, heights, builds and races.
- If you don’t have children, invite some along, making sure they are briefed about how to behave around your kitten.
- Invite friends with known cat-friendly dogs to visit. The dogs must be well trained and able to stay on command – whatever the circumstances.
- Take your kitten out in the car for short trips to get used to car travel from a young age. Offer a special treat when you return to the house.
These are just a few guidelines on how to have a well mannered kitty in your home. I hope that this has helped you as it did me in better understanding your feline friend!
To read Part 1, which focused on training your dog, click here.