Cat discipline – Part 9

If you’re fortunate enough to get your cat while it’s still a kitten, discipline and training can be quite simple. In fact, you can use a lot of the same principles that you would apply to child-rearing. Similar to Pavlov’s dogs, kittens respond extremely well to positive reinforcement. When we adopted our first kitten, we had to give her medication and ear drops several times a day. As you might expect, the poor thing absolutely hated the whole process. We felt so bad for her that we started giving her a few cat treats every time she took the medicine, and lo and behold, the kitten LEARNED that ear drops were no fun, but you got a treat once it was over. She would actually run into the kitchen where the treats were kept after taking the medicine! We have always done the same thing when it comes time to clip the little girl’s claws (a more humane alternative to declawing). She doesn’t like it, but she submits to it (no fangs, no claws!) and trots into the kitchen as soon as it’s over to patiently await her treat.

Our 2nd kitten was a tad more difficult (he’s a boy, go figure) but he learned what the squirt bottle meant in about 10 seconds flat. I haven’t had to actually squirt any water at him in months – if he’s misbehaving, I just call his name to get his attention and raise the bottle in his direction – instant behavior correction, and Kitty will actually lie down to demonstrate his compliance.

The vet has commented several times on the wonderful temperament that both cats have, and I can only think that it’s the result of the positive reinforcement that they get at home for their good behavior. Lots of “good girl/boy,” high-pitched voices, etc. – and rewards aplenty, just like you would use with a small child.

Both cats play fetch(!) and know multiple words, including, as you might guess, “treat” and “toy.” I haven’t spent much time trying to train a cat before, but I have to say that it’s been worth it – I think they might even take to it better than dogs!

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