Why cats are difficult to train – Part 5

Many cat lovers will tell you that part of the attraction of cats is their independent nature. Dogs will pretty much adore anyone who pats them on the head in a friendly fashion, while most cats are much more choosy in who they bestow their adoring gaze on. This independence also means that they make their own decisions on when they will take any notice whatsoever of what their adopted human is telling them to do.

You cannot reliably train cats to obey a command – with a bit of love, attention, and a combination of aversion therapy (the trusty water pistol approach), distractions and rewards, you can arrive at a co-operative, and rewarding relationship.

There are four main methods to persuade cats to what you want.

1. Reward them. For example, our cats will come racing across the estate to come in for the night when we call because they know we will feed them as soon as they come in.

2. If that doesn’t work, try some reverse psychology. For example, one of our cats occasionally finds the prospect of chasing moths in the garden far more interesting than getting fresh cat food. So I shut him out, engage in cat food tin noises and then try again. And if the moths are particularly entertaining that evening, I shut the door again and get our other cat to make exited ‘I’m getting fed meows’ right next to it – the rebel is generally ready to come in by the time I try again.

3. Distract them. If your furry f(r)iend is attacking your prized houseplant, clap your hands, or shout ‘Oi!’ to get their attention. Once they’ve stopped what they are doing for a few seconds, move them away from the plant, get out their favourite toy and play with them. On no account start playing with them while they are engaged in shredding your plant, or this will rapidly become their signal that they want a game.

4. Squirt them. If they have decided that your plant is so much more interesting than you clapping and going ‘Oi!’, and no amount of shooing them away is preventing them from immediately leaping right back up, get out the trusty water pistol or other water squirter and do the deed. One squirt followed up by a few hard glares if they even sniff the plant again over the next few minutes generally does the trick.

Important point to consider are:

You need to pick your battles. Our cats are happy to come in and get fed at night, but would look at us with disdain if we attempted to call them over for a pat when they’re happily curled up on the other

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