Cat discipline – Part 1

Cats are, for better or worse, much more independent minded and difficult to train than dogs. Although they can be very affectionate and friendly, they will often decide to do what they want when they want to do it, despite your best efforts to train. However, like all animals, they will respond to stimuli and they will learn from their past behavior.

The most common method of “training” a cat is to use a squirt gun or squirt bottle. Most cats do not like being squirted, and they will stop what they are doing when you squirt them. My cats have been conditioned to run when they hear the shake of the squirt bottle, which helps suggest that the conditioning works somewhat. I have to pick up the bottle slowly and quietly in order to actually squirt them before they run!

The problem is that while the squirt bottle serves as an immediate deterrant, the effect is short-lived. As quick as a minute later, the cat might be back at what she was doing. I have not discovered a way to permanently train my cats not to do certain things, and I’m not sure I ever will, but the water bottle is a good weapon of last resort.

Another tactic that I used before I had a water bottle was to pick the cat up, stare directly at her, and blow in her face. It’s disconcerting to most cats and serves the same purpose as the water bottle. Also, by staring them down you can assert yourself as the dominant one in the relationship. This works very well with dogs, due to their psychology, but the cat may be less likely to accept your dominance. Still, it’s worth a shot.

Finally, I learned an interesting trick to help train a cat not to bite. If you’re petting your cat/kitten and she starts to nip at you, stick the middle knuckle of your finger right in her mouth. She won’t be able to clamp down and the position will be quite uncomfortable. It’s a good defense mechanism for you and over time it should train the cat not to try and bite. However, be careful not to let it develop into a game. If the cat thinks that your finger is a toy, the biting will probably increase!

Cats can most certainly be trained. They are animals with malleable psyches, just like dogs and people. If you are determined to get them to stop a particular action, you just need to be consistent with your punishments. My cats’ response to the water bottle shaking is a clear indication that some level of conditioning is going on, and if I were patient and persistent enough it would train them not to engage in certain behaviors. You can accept your cat’s misbehavior and respond defensively, like I do, or take a pro-active approach and consistently train your cat until she recognizes your boundaries.

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