When it comes to the pets we bring into our homes, cats have a reputation for being notoriously “untrainable,” especially in comparison to dogs. Although canines might not actually feel as guilty as their puppy dog eyes make us believe when we try to discipline their bad behavior, they do tend to pick up on things that make them good boys and girls quicker than your average cat. I’ve personally learned this lesson all too well when my sweet cat decided my bed was a better place to relieve herself than the litter box. After taking her to the vet to make sure nothing was wrong with her health, I researched all the ways humans can train their pet cats.
Amy Shojai, a pet behaviorist and author of 11 books on the subject of sharing your home with animals, spoke with Fatherly about the most common problems owners have with their cats. She explained how discipline or light punishment, like saying “no” to our dogs, doesn’t work with the way cats’ brains are wired. In fact, according to Shojai, it can cause them to become afraid of their owners and go into “attack mode.” That, or they interpret it as a fun "kitty game" — like how Shojai's cat thought it was play time when her husband would shoo her away from the window blinds. “Cats always have a reason for doing what they do, and it’s to their benefit — or they don’t do it,” Shojai says.
How to Train a Cat
Instead of reacting negatively, you should think in ways of re-shaping their behavior. For example, if your cat is marking their territory by scratching your couch or other areas of the house, try placing a scratching board near the spot and add a sprinkle of catnip to turn their attention to that instead. It’s all about accepting the fact that they are animals who have their own unique instincts rather than letting your frustrated emotions get the best of you. After that, it’s a matter of redirecting that behavior to an alternative that works for both you and your feline.
In my own case, I learned not to mess with the type of litter box I provide for my cat, and a tarp on my bed for a few weeks helped her learn to go back to using her proper potty place. Another common example is a cat who plays rough too often, which can be deterred by playing with a simple fishing-pole-style toy more often. This can also help you and your cat both get a good night’s sleep by tuckering them out during the day. Just like a puppy who won't stop chewing on your shoes, it’s about putting in the time and care to make sure your animal is happy and healthy. Of course, you should also maintain regular visits to the vet to check for any ailments that might cause your pet to act out. Whatever the case, you and your cat will both be happier with some extra understanding.