Most people have a harder time understanding cats than dogs. Bred to keep man company and perform precise duties, dogs can be trained to obey commands and follow orders. But cats? How do you train a cat?
Training a cat is not easy because they have an especially suspicious character, because they’re more independent and far less food-oriented than dogs are, so little snacks won’t do the trick. But there are things he will learn from you. You won’t be able to train him like you did Fido, but some things can be taught, especially if you start when he’s still young. Here are some tips on how to go about it.
PROB: THE CAT WON’T USE THE LITTER BOX
If your cat is an indoor cat and has the run of the house, then it’s a good idea to teach him to “do his business” in the right place, and make it a habit. If he continues to ‘go’ where he’s not supposed to, even after you’ve taught him to use the litter box, then something got lost in translation. Let’s go over some of the basic steps:
- The litter box should be distant from the food bowl, in a quiet place where there’s not much foot traffic or noise.
- The litter box needs to be kept relatively clean: cats are very clean creatures and strong odours bother them. If the litter box is not cleaned regularly, then he’ll go find someplace he likes better. Make sure you remove the solid waste every day and change the entire litter box every two weeks or so. When you do, make sure you clean the actual box with a neutral detergent. Even too much perfume can bother him!
- You need to figure out what sort of litter and box he likes. Try some out on him, gradually changing from one to another, mixing the old with the new. Maybe your cat prefers a more natural material, or a different type of box, maybe an open one.
- If there is more than one cat in the house already, the ideal number of litter boxes is the same as the number of cats, plus one. Each one needs its own space and not bother one another with litter odours.
- He may not be a food hound, but he does like a treat now and again. When he uses the box, a little reward is not untoward to help reinforce the good behaviour.
- And if he has chosen a place to use that does not suit you? First of all, wash it really well to get rid of any odour so that he learns it is not his bathroom. Then turn it into a cat nightmare: put down aluminium foil, spray it with lots of strong perfume, dribble it with essential oils like citrus or menthol.
PROB: THE CAT SCRATCHES THE FURNITURE
Fundamental to man-cat cohabitation is that the latter must not destroy the furniture! Giving his nails a workout is a natural behaviour, so it will have to be done somewhere. Here are some tips to steer him in the right direction.
- To start with, get him a nice big tree-house-cum-scratch post and teach him it is his. It will distract his attention from the other pieces of furniture in the house and give him a place from which to observe the goings on of the household from his own vantage point. This way, he will know where to go and it will lessen the allure of jumping onto tables or other prohibited places.
- If he continues with the bad habits anyway and you catch him doing it, make a loud noise to distract him and then take him to his scratching post.
- If his favourite places remain your chairs and sofas, dab some citrus essential oil on them to keep him away. In the worst case, put a thick cover on them.
Remember that physically punishing or shouting at your cat is counter-productive, as well as being inappropriate. You have to be patient and understanding. Understanding a behaviour helps you to correct it. Needless to say, your cat will never become an obedient doggie, but if you adopt a kitty, it means you want some warm feline companionship, even though he may be a bit more… complicated!
A cat’s love and respect is not something to be taken for granted, but isn’t that why you got him?