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Cat training is a way of teaching your cat how to act in your home and can be used to prevent or eliminate undesirable activities and anxiety. Cat training might sound like something circus artists use to make cats jump through flaming hoops, but cat training can just as well involve integrating a new cat into a household with other pets or make a cat feel secure even when you’re not at home. Examples of problems that can be prevented or handled with cat training are destructive chewing and clawing, stress, anxiety, excessive fearfulness and shyness, litterbox problems, aggression, excessive attention seeking, and obsessive behaviours.
You might think that you have never trained a cat before, but the truth is that we constantly train our cats even when we’re unaware of it. Each time you reward certain behaviour, you encourage your cat to keep doing it. If you for instance rush to keep your cat company as soon as it lets out a displeased sound, you are training your cat to make noises each time it feels bored and wants to be the centre of attention. When you leave your feline friend to go to work, it is therefore perfectly logical for the cat to start bothering your neighbours with all sorts of yells and shrieks in hope of you returning to its side. Another type of “training” that remains common among cat keepers is to bring out food every time the cat starts climbing furniture in the kitchen. By doing this, you are of course teaching you cat that walking around on top of the stove and sink will result in a tasty treat and it will repeat this type of behaviour as soon as it finds itself in the mood for a snack. As you can see, we constantly train our cats by enforcing certain behaviours and neglecting others.
Cats learn by experience. If the outcome of a certain act is desirable, e.g. getting food or attention, the cat is likely to repeat it. If the outcome is undesirable, e.g. accidently falling into the bath tub and getting wet, the cat will most likely avoid it.
Before you start training a cat, try to understand why it acts the way it does and make out if training is the best solution here or if you have to take other steps to being with. A cat that refuses to use the litter box is probably not doing its business on the carpet because it has been poorly trained, because most cats actually prefer to poo in a sandy, secluded box where they can hide their droppings just like they would outside. You therefore have to put on your Sherlock Holmes outfit and carry out a little detective work before you start training your cat to use the litter box. Maybe the litter box needs to be cleaned more frequently? Maybe other cats in the household are keeping the poor carpet pooper away from the room where the litter box is placed? Maybe your kitten was taken from its mother and siblings too early and never learn to use the litter box? Maybe you are using a detergent that is making the cat dislike the litter box? These are just a few examples of things that can lead to cat excrements ending up on your precious rug.
As you learn more about cat training, it is important to keep in mind that all pets are individuals, and a technique that has worked wonders for one cat might therefore be highly unsuitable for another. Also keep in mind that some cats respond well to intensive training, while others need a lot of time and patience before the training shows any results. Don’t hesitate to seek advice from a vet or professional cat trainer if you need guidance when it comes to cat training. If you have a cat shelter in you area, it can also be a good idea to contact them because shelters tend to have a lot of experience in dealing with and training cats with various behavioural problems.