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How About Cats!

It’s pretty simple: If you want your cat to repeat a behavior, reward that behavior. Things get a little more complicated when people unwittingly reward a behavior that they don’t really want to encourage. For example, when your cat talks to you, do you talk to him, pet him, or give him a treat? If so, you’re teaching your cat that meowing brings rewards. If you don’t reward his meowing–in other words, ignore him when he meows–he’s unlikely to become a meower. If you really like a quiet cat, reward him when he’s not meowing.

If you’d like your cat to come to you when you call try this: Call her name and reward her with a treat when she walks over to you; then move to another spot, call her name, and reward her when she responds, and so on. Motivation is the key to training. For most cats, it’s food. They care less about “good kitty” than about good kitty treats.

So to motivate your cat, you’re going to reward her with a treat every time she uses the scratching post, lets you brush her, or uses the litterbox appropriately. Scratch her head and tell her she’s a pretty girl at the same time, but make sure you give her that treat. Smart cats will soon link that behavior with getting treats.

Timing is everything in training your cat. Cats have short attention spans, so the reward must come immediately (within seconds) of the behavior or your cat may not know what it’s for.

For example, if you see her use the scratching post, throw some treats her way while she’s scratching and tell her she’s a good cat, but don’t throw the treats if she has stopped scratching and is starting to something else, or it’s that “something else” that she’ll think merits the reward.

This is an important part of training. Give the same kind of reward each time your cat behaves the way you want him to, and make sure everyone in the family does the same.

And FYI the best time to train is right before meal time when your cat is most motivated by food. Only train for short periods at a time (15 minutes max) or your cat may lose interest. As soon as she stops responding, stop training.


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