Basic Training for Cats - FOX21- Entertaining Delmarva One Click at a Time

Basic Training for Cats

Cats learn by experience. If something is pleasant, they will want to do it again. If it is unpleasant, they won’t want to keep doing it. Before training your cat, determine how well she will respond well to training. Familiarize yourself with the different breeds of cats and their temperaments. It is also a good idea to spay or neuter your cat. Not only does this benefit your cat’s health, it reduces or eliminates many behavior issues, such as spraying or howling while in heat.


Scratching is a normal behavior in cats. Cats have scent glands in their feet and when they scratch, they not only sharpen their claws, but they mark scent as well. Cats will also scratch before, during and after play; after awaking to get a good "stretch" and when protecting themselves from animals or humans which they find threatening.

Outdoors a cat will use a favorite scratching area, usually a particular tree. It will return to this tree both from habit as well as to freshen its scent, very similar to the male dog who routinely lifts his leg on the same tree or in the same spot every morning. Unfortunately, the cat's favorite spot may not be appropriate to you. For example, his favorite scratching spot may be your stereo speakers, leather sofa or your curtains. The longer your cat has used this favorite site as his scratching post, the more difficult it may be to retrain him. Time and patience are the key. 

You should not punish the cat for scratching in undesirable areas. Punishment will only teach the cat to mistrust you or not to scratch in the area when you are present. It can also make the problem worse or create other bad behaviors, such as urine marking. There are two steps to redirecting the cat to an appropriate scratching post. First, make the cat's scratching area unappealing to him. For example, if your cat enjoys sharpening his claws on your sofa, cover the area with aluminum foil, plastic wrap or cheese cloth so the area becomes less desirable. You can also use repellent sprays (citrus or menthol scented) which have an offensive odor to cats, but will not harm your furniture. Prior to spraying, you must remove the cat's scent by shampooing the area. It may take a few tries before you find what deterrent will work with your cat. Another method of discouraging your cat from using an inappropriate scratching area is to booby trap the site. Fill an empty soda can with a few pennies and tie a piece of string to the can. Tack the string across the scratching area. When the cat scratches, the can will fall on the cat. Most cats will never return to that area again. To ensure that they do not, keep the trap up for at least a week or two to reinforce the negative result. The first step only discourages the cat from scratching in particular areas. Now, you must teach kitty where it can scratch.

It is very rare that a cat will just approach a store-bought scratching post and know that this is where the owner wants it to scratch. You must take time to teach him to use it. Never force your cat to use the post. If you do this, the cat will only associate the post with something unpleasant. Cats do not like to be forced to do anything: instead, entice the cat by having positive things occur near the scratching post. There are several ways to get your cat interested in the post. If your cat likes catnip, rub some on the post and place come special treats at varying levels of the post for rewards. Feeding your cat near the post will often spark interest in the post. Lure your cat to the post and have the cat chase an object on a string up the post. Once the cat feels the material and begins to scratch, reward it with a special treat and praise. Always keep the scratching post in an area where your cat usually sleeps. Cats usually stretch upon awakening and will look for a desirable area to scratch. If the post is nearby, the cat will learn to use this post as a stretching zone.

The scratching post must be long enough (three feet or more) for your cat to stretch on. It must also be sturdy so it does not teeter when the cat begins to scratch. Sometimes it is necessary to have a variety of posts with different surfaces scattered around the house in order to find one which your cat enjoys. This is less expensive in the long run that replacing your furniture, carpets and draperies.

If you have made every attempt to teach kitty to scratch in appropriate areas, but have been unsuccessful, a short-term solution is to use commercially made plastic claw covers that are glued on to cover the nails. These do not provide a long-term solution and cannot be left on the cat forever.

The key is to begin training early. You must be consistent, patient and careful not to become angry or frustrated. If you cannot supervise your kitten or cat during this process, restriction to one room is mandatory. Freedom is earned when the cat proves itself to be reliable to follow the rules throughout the house. Putting the time in to teach your cat what is expected of him will give you great rewards.

Walk On A Leash

Yes, it is possible to teach your cat to walk on a leash! As long as you make it a pleasant experience, your cat should come to enjoy this time with you. To start, select a harness that fits your cat - not too loose so your cat slips out, but not too tight where she feels restricted.

Before going outside, put the harness on your cat and attach a lightweight leash. Let her drag the leash around and chase it. Once she associates harness and leash with playtime, you can move outside. Still taking it slow, take your cat out into your yard. Let her get accustom to being outside; let her explore at her own pace. If she needs coaxing, offer her treats when she comes to you, or have another family member stand at a distance and offer her treats. Once she starts walking on the leash, let her lead the way - within reason of course. Remember that anytime you take your cat outside, she may be exposed to fleas, parasites, some diseases and other dangers. Please take every precaution to keep your cat safe!

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