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Every dog owner knows that dogs can be trained to behave well and perform some amazingly complex tasks; cats, however, are given a free pass due to their “take me as I am” attitude. The truth is, cats can also be trained. They may not respond as well as dogs do, but they can be taught basic behaviours to make life easy for their owners.
Why Is It Necessary to Train Your Cat?
Cats are known for their cheekiness and disobedience. They leave their owners without many options than to conform to their ways. It is important however to train cats so that a healthy relationship can be fostered with them for the long term. Training is also needed to help with inculcating behaviours that are non-destructive.
One example of this is scratching; cats have an instinctive urge to scratch things just like their urge to climb and seek hiding places. An untrained cat can wreak havoc in your house and leave it in a mess by the time you return. Similarly, potty training to use the litter box, responding to your calls and returning to you are important behaviours they need to learn.
5 Essential Things You Can Train Your Cat to Do
Although cats can’t be trained to obey commands are well as dogs do, they can be given basic training that is essential for them as pets. Here are five of them:
1. Litter Box Training
The most basic of them all is how to train cats to answer nature’s call. This is needed to establish definite boundaries and let the cats have their own private place to do their thing. Since they’re naturally tidy, litter box training is relatively easy. To get your cat to poop in the litter box, follow these tips
- Set up a clean litterbox in a room that will be their permanent place for nature calls. Let them have their food and water in the same room and plenty of time for themselves.
- When they poop outside the box, move the mess into the litter box, so they will learn that the litterbox is where they need to go. This may take a few trials, but they will eventually get it.
- If it still doesn’t work, place your cat in the litterbox after each meal and scratch the sand/ clay with your fingers to trigger their instincts.
- If they are still not going in the litterbox, try changing the sand or switching litter brands.
2. Training to Come When Called
The second essential behaviour is training cats to come to you at your command. Most cat breeds enjoy outdoors as they like to hunt and feel free to roam about. You have to allow them to go out or they will inevitably find a way to do so. You’d rather have them trained to come back to you than to dash outside into an unsafe situation and not know how to return home. This training might even save their life someday. Follow these steps
- Training them to come to you works by positive reinforcement. Call them by their name in relaxed, positive situations while you pet or cuddle them. You could combine saying their names with other sound cues such as tongue clicks.
- To begin with, reward them every time they acknowledge you. Even if they glance towards you as a response, pet them or give them a scratch behind the ears.
- Once the first step is established, reward them with a treat if they come to you when called. Repeat this step often, so it is imprinted firmly into their memory.
3. Training Them to Sit
Training cats to sit is another skill that is not as hard as it sounds and it acts as a building block for others to form. It works on positive reinforcement, similar to the previous one.
- Start with a treat held above the cat’s head, a few inches above the ears and grab their attention.
- Move the treat over to their back which will leave them with no choice but to sit so they can take a look at the treat.
- Reward them by allowing them to have the treat as soon as they sit. Repeat this over and over again while you say the word “sit” so they can associate the action with the word.
4. Leash Training
Cats that are used to being indoors can feel overwhelmed by the outside world. With leash training, you can get them accustomed to going out with confidence and get all the benefits of exercise and enjoying nature. Getting them to accept a leash has to be done systematically like all other skills.
- It’s best to get a body harness rather than a collar as it is more comfortable and secure. Place the harness in familiar places your cat goes every day to get it accustomed to the harness.
- Step two is to drape the harness over it without fully attaching it. Let it stay freely and offer the cat a treat every time you do it.
- Once the cat is comfortable, attach the harness to its body and leave it on for a few minutes. Reward with a treat for having the harness on.
- Go about with incremental steps and attach a leash to the harness and walk them inside the house. Eventually, move to the yard and then the outdoors.
5. High Fives
With a little practice every day, you can train your cat to give high-fives. The training uses positive reinforcement in the form of praises, pets and treats for performing tricks. Start by holding a treat over them such that they will have to raise their paw to reach it. As they reach for it, touch the paw and say “High Five!” Reward them afterwards. Once the high five is mastered, you can modify that a little to teach a handshake.
Using positive reinforcement methods, you can train your cat to master a number of important skills and some fun tricks. Although cats aren’t instinctive learners like dogs, they can be trained with patience and perseverance.