Cats CAN Be Trained

People have been training cats to do tricks for years, but it’s becoming more and more popular for helping to fix behaviour problems, to work our cat’s minds and even just for fun and to bond. Since training cats is still pretty new, I have lots of people look at me like I’m crazy when I suggest they train their kitty to sit, down, stay, or any other trick that you would teach a dog. It makes me giggle a little. Cats can be trained, we just have to start thinking like them!

Like I’ve said countless times, cats aren’t dogs, so training cats is a wee bit different. Most cats won’t do something just to please you, they need to know what’s in it for them, and what’s in it for them is tasty treats! Always use your cat’s most favourite treat while training and make sure they are hungry, so no free feeding or treating outside of training session.

Along with treats comes clicks! Clicker training is a cat trainer’s best friend (other than the cats themselves of course). Clicker training is simple and is yet the most effective way to train cats. Since us humans are pretty slow sometimes to get treats to our cat’s mouths we teach our cats that a click means that they did what they were supposed to and now they just need to wait for their clumsy human to give them their reward. It’s always behaviour performed, click, and then treat!

There are many different types of clickers that you can use for training, a quieter click with a pointer stick is ideal.

Depending on your cat, there are two ways to train them to do a trick, they are luring and capturing. Luring is when you put a treat in front of your cat’s nose and lure them into the position you want tot rain, like sit or down. Luring a cat can be tough though, so that’s why we have capturing as well. Capturing is when you treat your kitty for doing something naturally, so if you see your cat about to sit her butt down, you would treat her as soon as she sits. Capturing works a lot more nicely for stubborn kitties, but it can only be done to teach commands that are natural for cats to do.

Lastly, patience is key, as it is for training and teaching any living being. Progress is always slow at first, but once you and your cat have the basics down, you’ll both be flying through tricks that you can show off!

This handsome guy was at a shelter I volunteer at, he was learning sit and down!

How To Curb Those Naughty But Natural Behaviours

All cat’s behaviour problems can be solved, some are rooted so deep in a cat’s instincts though that the problem can’t be stopped completely, but the kitty can instead be given an appropriate outlet to be able to act on their instincts. Here are those deeply rooted natural behaviour and how to curb them:

Scratching furniture, walls, and doors: Scratching is how cats leave visual and scent markers to define their territory. Scratching also helps them stretch all of their muscles and sheath their outer claws. While scratching isn’t something you can stop your cat from doing, you can make it so she only scratches what you want her to scratch. You do this by putting sturdy scratchers beside the object that you don’t want her to scratch and praise her with treats every time she uses the appropriate scratcher. Also pay attention to what your cat scratches to see if she is a vertical or horizontal scratcher. If she scratches carpet, she’s a horizontal scratcher, if she scratches the sides of your couches, she is a vertical scratcher, cater to that.

Jumping onto “forbidden” areas: Cats are both predator and prey so being up high lets them observe their territory for food and dangers, that’s why you will often have a problem with your cat being on counter tops, tables, and appliances. Just like scratching, you need to give her appropriate high places to perch on like cat trees, shelving, or even just a tall stool, and praise her when she uses them.

Nocturnal activity: Cats are often mistaken as being nocturnal even though they are actually crepuscular (they are most active at dawn and dusk). If you don’t give your cat enough mental stimulation and exercise throughout the day before you go to bed, she will be up all night filled with all of the energy she didn’t get to burn off. To prevent nocturnal activity,give your kitty enough mental and physical stimulation during the day by providing her with a window for some cat TV, solo toys, puzzle feeders, and play with her at least 15 mins a day, especially before bedtime.

Escaping/bolting: Any cat that is not neutered or spayed will try to escape, so always fix your cat. Some other reasons a cat would want to bolt out the front door could be lack of routine, feeling unsafe or stressed, or not getting enough mental stimulation indoors. The goal in this case is to make your cat want to be inside, you do this by providing her with cat TV,solo toys, and by having a strict feeding and interactive play routine. You can also bring the outdoors in by growing catnip and cat grass, or bring the indoors cat out safely with leash walking, a catio, or an enclosed yard with a fence that she can’t get over.

Being a pet owner isn’t easy, but making sure they live their best life is your ultimate goal. There are many ways to not have to sacrifice too much of your own homes to integrate everything they need in to it. It is all worth it in the long run for the animals we love so dearly.

The Signs of Chronic Stress in Cats and How To De-Stressify

Chronic stress in cats is just as serious of a problem as it is in humans but it is often overlooked because of cat’s reputations of being independent, standoffish and grouchy. To make sure you don’t miss some of the signs that your kitty has chronic stress, here are a few to look out for from cat behaviourist Pam Johnson-Bennett:

  • Eliminating outside of the litter box
  • Increased vocalization
  • Excessive grooming
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Change in social behaviour
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Increased aggression
Signs of stress won’t always be as clear as angry Riah, you may have to do some detective work!

If you think that your kitty is feeling stressed or is chronically stressed, the most important thing to do is enrich her environment. You can do this by providing spots for your kitty to perch at to look out a window, provide beds that get hit by rays of sun throughout the day, give them lots of safe and social hiding places, feed them with a puzzle feeder and provide them with solo toys that they love. And as always, play, play, play. Interactive play with wand toys, or even fetch, is the number one way to de-stress your cat and keep them happy!

Making Road Trips Less Stressful For You and Your Kitty

Preparing for a road trip with your kitty causes of a lot of stress, for both of you. Getting your cat in to their carrier, the meows and yowls of your scared kitty, and the ball of guilt that will lie in your stomach is a recipe for feeling horribly anxious. While road trips with your cats may never be fun, there are many ways to make them as easy and painless as possible, here are some of those tips:

  • Have a few months before you have to head out? Start to take your cat for a short car ride as often as you can and then slowly make those trips longer and longer. The starting point is home and the destination is also home.
  • Leave the carrier in an area that your cat spends lots of time in for no less than two days before your trip, put a blanket and some treats in it to show her that it isn’t so scary.
  • You will also need to choose an appropriate carrier, it should be able to be buckled in securely and it should be an appropriate size (smaller carriers for shorter drives and larger carriers for longer drives). Extra bedding should be brought along in case of accidents so your kitty stays clean and comfortable.
  • Make sure your cat has updated identification (collars with ID tags and microchips) and have an up to date picture of her. You should also be sure that any hotels or lodgings you may be staying at are cat friendly.
  • Putting a harness and leash on your cat is always a good idea too because then if she tries to run off she will not be able to get too far. -Play with and then feed your kitty close to when you have to leave, this will naturally put her in a more relaxed mood.
  • Put some cat safe anti anxiety/calming drops in your cat’s food to keep stress levels at a low.
  • Cats should also be supplied water, food,and a litter box throughout the trip so you will need to bring along dishes and a box with litter.
  • Once you are travelling, remember that your cat should never be left alone in the car under any circumstances.

Building Friendship Between Kiddos and Kitties

Helping kids become best friends with their cats can be quite the feat. Kids are loud and crazy tornadoes, which cats often find scary and threatening. To build a life-long friendship between the two, it is super important to teach your children how to properly handle, read and act around your cat, here’s how to do it!

The first thing that kids need to understand is that kitties have feelings too. You can explain to them that cats feel sad, happy, excited, etc, just like them! You can then teach your kiddos how to tell how cats are feeling by telling them what certain body language and verbal sounds mean. These are the most important ones:

  • Tails – Up high in the air means the cat is feeling friendly, down or between legs means she is scared, puffed up means angry or scared, twitching means she is getting mad, and wagging means she is very angry.
  • Ears – Upright means kitty is listening, flat means she is scared or angry.
  • Eyes – Wide pupils means she is nervous, small slit pupils means she is relaxed. Avoiding making eye contact means she wants to be left alone, blinking means she is relaxed too.
  • Whiskers – When whiskers are pointing forward or backwards kitty is scared or angry and could bite, when they are relaxed to the side, kitty is also relaxed.
  • Full body postures – Arched back is a scared cat that is ready to fight, body pressed to the ground means she wants to be left alone, belly up means she trusts you and wants attention, but don’t pet her belly! Laying down like she is sleeping means a happy cat.
  • Verbal cues – Typical meows that you hear a lot is just kitty talking to you and getting your attention, purring usually means that she is relaxed and happy but sometimes she can be hurting or frustrated. Growling and hissing mean leave her alone until she calms down.

Once your child understands how to read a cat’s body language, you can teach them about approaching, petting and holding a kitty! This is how to do it:

  • How to approach and pet a cat – When kitty is showing her “yes I want attention” body language and after they’ve asked the owner if they can pet her (if it is a stranger’s cat), they can slowly go up to the cat. Tell them to try not to stare at her and they can even try a slow blink. They can slowly reach out a finger and let her push her head in to it to show them that she wants to be pet, your child can then gently pet down her body to the base of her tail with a relaxed, open hand. Remind them not pet too much and for too long, lots of kitties don’t like that. Almost all cats will like a good head and check scratch though. Each cat has preferences.
  • Picking up and holding a cat – A cat should be picked up under the chest and belly between her legs with both hands. Once kitty is off the ground, your child should pull her to their chest and hold her with one arm supporting her front legs and the other arm supporting her back legs. They need to make sure she feels like she won’t fall and that she is comfortable.

Using a stuffed animal to show your kiddo these things before they try with a real kitty is a great way to make sure they understand how to do everything properly!

Kids get very excited when they see cats, and that’s when the scary tornado can happen, so always remind them, along with everything above, to always be gentle when petting, visiting and playing with a kitty, talk softly when they are with kitties, and don’t bother cats when they are sleeping, eating, using their litterbox, hiding or relaxing up high.

Some more fool proof ways to help your cat and kid become best friends is to teach your child that your cat isn’t an “IT”, it is an object, not a living animal, always use your cat’s name or he or she. You should also intertwine cat and kid routine, including your child in feeding (how much kitty eats and what is good and bad for them), playing (show how to play properly with kitty), grooming, growing catnip and cat grass, and loving will help them understand cats even more and will help your cat see that your child is quite awesome too.

Kids are the future and it’s our responsibility to teach them compassion, kindness and love for cats and all other living beings. This is the first step to doing just that!