Many people are under the mistaken impression that cats are arrogant, moody creatures that will ignore their owners’ attempts to train them. They think that cats could obey and choose not to. Although cats do ignore commands because they don’t feel like doing what their owners ask, sometimes they are not obeying because they simply do not understand.
Training a cat generally takes a lot more time and patience than training a dog. Positive reinforcement works better than negative reinforcement with cats. If you punish them, they will just wait until you are not watching to misbehave, so it is better to simply ignore wrong responses and lavish praise on your cat when he responds correctly.
You should start training your cat when he is about eight to ten weeks old. However, if you have an older cat, don’t let that stop you. It may be a bit harder to teach him, but old cats can learn new tricks.
It is best to begin training your cat by teaching him to come when he is called, just as you do with a puppy. Make sure you have a supply of your cat’s favorite treat and that he is feeling well rested and fairly happy. If there is a lot of noise and confusion, move to a quieter area, so your cat is not distracted. Before you begin training, decide on one command and be sure you use it consistently. Commands should be short and easy to say. ‘Come kitty’ or ‘Here kitty’ are both good choices.
Once you decide on a command, you are ready to start training your kitten. Get down on her level by sitting or kneeling on the floor and call him to you using the command. Sound excited and happy. When your kitten comes to you, give him a treat and praise him lavishly. Then, either wait for the kitten to move away or stand up and move to another part of the room. Repeat the come command. Do not train your kitten for longer than ten minutes at a time. If he seems to be growing bored or frustrated, stop training. You should ideally hold two or three training sessions a day for a week. Once you are sure your kitten has truly grasped the meaning of the come command, you can start to teach him other commands, such as no or stay.
Finally, there are several other things you should teach your cat for his own well being. He should learn to tolerate a harness and leash in case you need to travel long distances with him or take him to the veterinarian. For the same reason, he should learn to use a crate.
To teach your kitten to use a harness and leash, start by putting the harness on him. Once the harness is in place, do not restrain him in any way. Praise him lavishly and be sure to give him his favorite treat. Once he is accustomed to the harness, attach the leash and let him lead you around a bit. Then, coax him into following you by offering more treats and praise. Although few cats actually learn to heel on the leash, your cat should learn not to panic and struggle when he is wearing his leash.
Teaching your kitten to use a crate is a bit easier. Put a cozy blanket and a favorite toy in the crate. Praise him lavishly as you place him in the crate. Leave him inside for two or three minutes and then release him. Do not make a big deal about letting him out of the crate, but always reward him for going in. Gradually extend the time you leave your kitten in the crate each time, until he is comfortable staying in his crate for an hour or two.
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