Training your cat is possible! – Part 22

How to stop them eating birds

it’s pretty worrying, how fewer birds we see in the gardens over here, so encouraging the cat to avoid hunting the birds is quite important. Thankfully the training doesn’t have to have started from the moment you brought that cute little kitten home, but you can get them to learn that you don’t like them killing birds throughout their life: even old cats can learn new tricks.

The most important thing is to express your disapproval when they do hunt. Ignore them for a bit of the day and act very quietly, but a few hours later, give them reasonable fuss to show that you love them. Then when they next go into the garden, especially if you have a bird table and the cat starts prowling around it, say in a low tone, “NO.”

Cats are very sensitive to their owners’ moods however yelling at them doesn’t work really, only a low, steady, disapproving tone and speaking succinct words. These words can become over time, ‘command’ words, like “NO” or “BAD” to make them stop what they’re doing, and may be extended to their other actions, like if they’re scratching the furniture.

There will be times when you catch them with a bird and when that happens, while they’re crouched over it, grip them by the scruff of the neck, not lifting them though and say in the same tone as when warning them, “BAD.”

At the same time, their bad habits may require something from you. A cat scratching the furniture needs something to sharpen his or her claws on and to mark his or her territory. We use the old lounge carpet that’s rolled up inside the garage, and Tom loves that. He’s also able to use the pear tree to mark his territory and so he’s not had the need to scratch the furniture. Similarly if he tried to beg scraps from us when we’re eating dinner-and that’s more frequent now, as with winter he’s got hungrier!-we will sternly say “NO” to make him draw back and find himself something else to do. Then we’ll feed him at the normal time and give him a fuss while he’s eating, which sure makes him purr!

So training a cat isn’t impossible, though it can take time. It’s the words you use that are most important, and the tone you use, and the rewards that don’t need to be food treats. A cat, despite its solitary nature, loves attention, and can be rewarded in the healthiest way when you know its favourite places for tickling and stroking (ours loves having his chin tickled and his belly rubbed, and loves being flea-combed), or else playing with it, dragging a piece of string or giving it a bit of catnip.

Make sure that from the beginning if possible, you regulate its feeding schedule as well, to teach it to have a smaller appetite to also help avoid it becoming obese, and also to help it from needing to hunt so much. Sometimes you can tame its hunting instincts by playing games with it, though if you need your cat for hunting rats and mice, like we do ours, helping it to learn that you don’t approve of it hunting birds, is the way to go.

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