Why cats are difficult to train – Part 7

It is a myth that cats are not trainable. Watch a tiger or lion in a circus sometime. I have also seen cats playing ping-pong, standing up and begging and many other tricks. Think your cat is untrainable? Just turn on the electric can-opener, shake a "treat box" or rattle certain dishes and see if your cat doesn’t come running! Cats are trainable, but everyone agrees they are difficult to train.

One of the difficulties is a cat’s independence. They do not seem to be as dependent on humans as dogs do. They certainly are not as eager to please their owners as dogs are. Most of the time they act as if they don’t care if their owners are pleased at all! Perhaps this is because they are independent and loners in their own species. Cats hunt and play alone for the most part. To overcome this tendency, pick out "tricks" that go along with the cat’s nature. They are easily trained to come to dinner, or use a litter box. These two "tricks" they would do anyway. We were able to train our cat to fetch. He would do it regularly when he wanted to play. When he got tired, no amount of bribery with treats would entice him to fetch. So, we considered him trained and made sure if we wanted him to show off, he was in a playful mood.

Kittens are easier to train, mainly because they always want to play and always seem to be hungry! I am currently training my two kittens to stand up and beg. They are always willing to do this for a treat. Often they are standing and begging even when I have not asked them to! Ah, such is the nature of cats.

Using a combination of reward, such as a treat, and punishment can help to train a cat to refrain from a negative behavior such as scratching furniture, drapes and carpets. Say "no", or squirt a bit of water on them, take them to their scratching post and demonstrate the use of it, then reward them for their independent use by giving them a treat. Nothing tickles a cat more that watching their owner diligently scratching the scratching post!

Remember, too, that cats are primarily nocturnal. They prefer to sleep during the day and are even less anxious to show off tricks then that at night. If you want to lose some sleep, you may be able to communicate more effectively with your cat at night.

There have been many debates about the intelligence of a cat vs a dog, especially when it comes to training. I will not get into that argument! I will say I think cats are much smarted in training their human owners! My cats know just how to act to get a treat! They lovingly thread around my ankles until I can’t walk. Cats are intelligent enough to read. I know this because if I am reading a paper or have several books open on the table, my cat will always lay exactly where I am reading. This includes picking the right book I am using! One cat has me well trained to let him out the door, regardless of the time of day. He jumped unexpectedly onto the middle of my chest. The same cat announces when his food bowl is empty by chewing on my foot. Don’t tell me cats are dumb!

I guess it all boils down to which is more difficult to train, the human or the cat! I know who is in our house!

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