If you’re laughing to yourself after reading the title of this article and thinking “Ha, you can’t train cats!”, you aren’t alone. Cats have a reputation of being aloof, uncaring, and well, untrainable, and many cat owners seem to have accepted this as fact. When training dogs, it’s possible to take advantage of their desire to please us. But, when it comes to training cats, it can often seem like cats simply disapprove of our displeasure with them scratching the couch. While it may not seem like dogs and cats have much in common, except for their CBD oil, science is showing us that cats are trainable, but they require different methods than dogs do.
Can You Use Treats to Train a Cat?
You can use treats to train a cat. Cats respond well to positive reinforcement, so things like tasty treats are a great way to reward the positive behaviors you want to see in your cat.
The thing is, you’ve likely already trained your cat without realizing it. Cats will interpret scolding and other forms of “discipline” as attention, which is what they want. A study in Behavioral Processes found that most cats prefer human interaction over food. So, even though you’re giving your cat negative attention when she jumps on the counter or uses your couch as a scratching post, any attention tends to be preferable over no attention.
Training a cat boils down to two basic principles:
Reward the behaviors you like.
Ignore or correct the behaviors you don’t.
Correcting Negative Behaviors
We’ll look at two ways to approach training a cat out of unpleasant behaviors like biting or scratching the furniture. First though, an important note. Cats respond very poorly to aggressive punishments, like yelling or hitting. This will make them afraid of you and can lead to your cat hiding from you, or worse, making them more aggressive. It’s also important to remember that “bad” behavior may be your cat’s way of trying to communicate with you. Scratching the couch, or peeing outside of their litter box is their way of saying “Hey, I’m bored!” and “The litter box is dirty, please clean it!”. Trying to find the root cause of negative behaviors will allow you to correct the issues most effectively. Also, any attempts to train a cat out of bad behaviors will be more successful when coupled with extensive positive reinforcement, which we’ll look at after this section.
1. Ignore your cat
Get ready to freeze your veins to ice. This training method works under the assumption that any attention to negative behaviors is training the cat to keep it up because she wants your attention.
This method can be very effective with biting. Unless a bite is a boundary communication from your cat, we want to train our cats not to bite us. So, here’s how it works. The moment your cat bites you simply ignore them. Turn your back to your cat and use your body language to show them how completely uninterested you are. Commitment is required for this method. As you try to make a behavior, like walking on your face in the middle of the night, “extinct”, there may be a period of “extinction burst” when your cat will intensify their efforts to get your attention through the negative behavior. For this method to work, you need to hold your ground and pretend your cat doesn’t exist and is not chewing up your shoelaceswith gleeful abandon.
2. Gentle discipline
If you’re not ready for a full commitment to the “Ignore your cat” method, or if their behavior is simply intolerable, then there are some gentle ways of disciplining your cat. Use a firm tone and pick an uncommon word to use when you catch your cat doing something he shouldn’t. You want your cat to associate the word with unwanted behaviors, so don’t use common words like “Hey” or “No”, which might confuse your cat. Also, remember that discipline is only effective if you catch your cat in the act. Cats have short attention spans, so even if you walk into the shattered remains of a vase, it’s too late to discipline your cat. If you try, your cat will be confused about why they’re being punished for trying to welcome you home.
a. Use a time-out.
When your cat performs an undesirable behavior, you can place him in a little time-out by putting him in another room, preferably one that’s hard to get out of. Or, the time out could be you removing yourself from your cat’s presence if he starts clawing at your arm during playtime.
b. Booby trap.
An effective way to keep cats off counters and tabletops is to “booby trap” them with light objects that will crash to the floor when he jumps onto the forbidden surface. The idea is that this will startle, but not harm, your cat, and he will start to associate jumping on the kitchen table with things crashing around him.
c. Spray bottle.
This method will quickly stop undesirable behavior. Try to spray your cat from behind, and be sure to use the “mist” setting, because the “stream” setting could hurt your cat’s eyes or ears. Be sure to use a firm, not aggressive or loud, tone of voice.
3. Redirection and Diversion
Another tried and true method for training your cat out of negative behaviors is to use diversion and redirection. For example, if your cat is scratching at your couch, take him to his scratching post instead. Or, when you catch your cat eating your plants, divert his attention to a toy.
Using Treats to Train Your Cat
Now that we’ve discussed negative behaviors, let’s address the most effective, easiest way to train your cat: positive reinforcement. Yes, this means treats! While giving treats is a very effective way to train your cat, the ultimate goal is to expand the meaning of “treat” to include praise and physical affection. However, it is often most effective to start with treats and slowly start to substitute with praise and chin scratches as the positive behaviors become more habitual. Also important to note: when giving lots of treats as part of training, feed your kitty a little bit less of her regular food to keep her at a healthy weight.
Using treats to train your cat is simple: every time your cat does something you want, like scratch her scratching post or allows you to trim her nails, or nail, reward with a treat. Here are a few ways to use positive reinforcement to train your cat.
1. Do it immediately.
It’s important to give treats right as positive behavior occurs. This makes sure that your cat will associate good behavior with treats.
2. Reward desired behaviors.
Anytime your cat is doing something positive, like playing with toys on his own, or using soft paws when he playfully pounces, reward with a treat, praise, or physical affection.
3. Focus on one behavior at a time.
It might be easier for you and your cat to focus on a single desired behavior at a time. If you’re working on litter box training, this means a treat every time your cat successfully uses her litterbox.
4. Involve the household.
It’s important that everyone who is around your cat daily knows about your training program and agrees to participate. This involves them knowing what your goals are and what the program is for your cat. This way, your cat is receiving the same message from everyone at home.
5. Go slowly.
When you’re training your cat for a more challenging desired behavior, like tolerating a nail trim, it’s important to take your time and not expect too much from your cat. For example, if your cat tolerates you holding her paw, that’s worth a treat. If you’re able to press out one claw, that means a reward. While this method takes time, you will be successful if you go slowly and consistently.
Using CBD to Help Train Your Cat
One way to support your cat’s successful training is to use Pet Releaf CBD. Pet Releaf makes high-quality CBD for pets and has two hemp oils, a USDA Organic hemp oil, and one mixed with sustainably sourced fish oil, that could be useful for training your cat. Your cat has an endocannabinoid system that’s part of her nervous system. The endocannabinoid system helps the body communicate with itself and regulates various body systems like the nervous system, digestive system, and respiratory system. Training a cat can be stressful, both for you and your cat. Give your little buddy some support with CBD. CBD may have a calming effect on your cat’s nerves, which will help him be more receptive to training. It’s also possible that using CBD will increase your cat’s sense of contentment while his routine is being changed by training. And, you can have peace of mind when choosing Pet Releaf for your pet CBD. Every month, one of each of their products is sent off to a third-party laboratory for testing to make sure that there aren’t any harmful contaminants. Pet Releaf is CBD you can trust.