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How Do You Train Cats?

March 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Cat Care Tips | 4 comments

How do you train cats? It's all about rewards!

When your cat avoids the litter box or meows excessively, you may wonder, how do you train cats?

To understand cat training, you need to understand cat behavior.

Cats are very intelligent. They are capable of playing fetch, using the toilet, and even inventing tools.

Much of your cat’s behavior is instinctual. Cats scratch your furniture because, in the wild, they need to scratch to sharpen their claws. Cats misbehave at night because, in the wild, their prey would be awake at night. It is, however, possible (and fun!) to train your cat.

How Do Cats Learn?

Seriously, how do you train cats?

To answer that question, we need to consider cat psychology. Cats learn by operant and classical conditioning. Operant conditioning involves rewards and punishments.

Punishments are usually not recommended for cat training because some cats learn to associate you with the punishment instead of their bad behavior. This “association” between stimulus and response is another learning technique called classical conditioning.

Spray bottle training is a popular form of punishment. Professional trainers tend to agree that it’s not a good idea. It’s too risky. Your cat could wind up resenting you, so it’s better to use a reward-based system.

Cat Training Techniques

We recommend the following cat training techniques:

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is all about rewards. Reward your cat’s good behavior with food, toys, your love and affection, and a good visit to the scratching post.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t over-reward. Five or six rewards each day should be plenty. If you over-reward, your cat could get bored.
  • Avoid punishment, if possible. Rewarding good behavior should be enough to encourage more.

Clicker Training

A cat training clicker is an effective cat training method that teaches the feline to associate a clicking noise with a behavior, and that behavior with a reward.

You basically use a device, called a clicker, to make a “clicking” noise when your cat does something good. After you make the clicking noise, reward kitty with treats and toys and love.

Interesting facts about clicker training:

  • It’s highly effective because it combines positive reinforcement (rewards) with classical conditioning (associating stimulus with reward).
  • You should try to click at the exact instant that your cat does something good. This ensures your kitty associates good behavior with the reward.

How do you train cats? Clicker training and positive reinforcement are great starts.

Have anything to add? Share your knowledge in the comments!

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4 responses to “How Do You Train Cats?”

  1. […] How do you train cats to play nice? Howdini made an informative video featuring Katherine Miller, animal behaviorist with the ASPCA, and it covers the basics: […]

  2. […] Cat Training exists for a reason. Crazy Cats @ Yahoo! Video […]

  3. […] How do you train cats to use the cat scratcher? It’s all about positive reinforcement. When kitty needs to scratch, move him to the scratching post. Reward him when he scratches on his own furniture, and never, ever punish him. A cat training clicker could be particularly effective. […]

  4. […] Avoid punishing the cat […]

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