Changing Behavior and Training Your Feline
Unlike dogs, cats don’t have a built-in mechanism for working with a family. Dogs take naturally to the idea of a family, because their ancestors lived and hunted in cooperative teams with a highly developed social structure, called packs. Except for lions, cats are solitary hunters and they’re used to taking care of themselves. You can’t make them do what they don’t want to. In order to change any behavior, you must offer an alternative you both can accept. Your cat loves you and enjoys your company, but if you want to convince him to do things your way, you must answer the quintessential cat question: What’s in it for me?
The good news is that cats are creatures of habit. After yours learns where scratching, chewing, or relieving himself is okay, you can put away all the gadgets you’ve used to convince him.
Reward your cat for good behavior with praise, treats, petting, and games. If your cat uses the scratching post instead of the couch, make sure that he knows you approved by playing with him. You cat isn’t born knowing the rules of living among humans and, if you make following the rules pleasant, you have much better luck getting him to follow them.
Never hit your cat and never let him think that any discipline is coming from you. Physical
discipline is worse than meaningless to cats, and it can make a situation even worse by making your cat stressed out and afraid of you.
What works for cats, is to make them believe that whatever they’re doing wrong triggers an automatic response they don’t like - and as far as they can tell, you have nothing to do with it! The couch they used to enjoy clawing is now covered in something they don’t like to touch. Every time they get on the counter a stream of water comes their way.
Biting and Aggression
You need to do a little detective work and figure out what’s causing your cat to bite or claw. Aggression takes many forms and the solution depends on the cause, some of which may be as follows:
FEAR OR PAIN. If your cat is striking out because he’s afraid or hurting, your best bet is to leave him alone and work on the underlying problem. A cat in pain or fear has his ears flat back against his head and body rolled into a defensive posture low against the ground with claws up and ready. This cat is saying, “Don’t come near me!” You need to let your cat calm down-hide if needed- before you ask your Veterinarian to check her out. Often, under these circumstances, that carrier your cat seems to hate seems like haven. Place the carrier with the door wide open in the room with your cat. Your cat may choose to go in there and this may save you the “fight” of trying to force your cat to enter the carrier for the trip to the vet. Remember: Don’t fight with your cat. You will lose.
OVERSTIMULATION. You’re petting your cat and suddenly he grabs you with his claws and teeth. Not a full-powered attack, but you’ve still got those sharp tips around your hand. What to do? In the short run, freeze. Don’t fight your cat or you may trigger a real bite. Sometimes smacking your other hand against a hard surface- a tabletop, for example, may startle your cat into breaking off the attack. If you stay still, however, he usually calms down and releases you. That’s the solution if you’ve gotten into the attack stage. The better option is to be familiar with his body language and stop petting before he becomes over stimulated. Cat lovers often think such attacks come without warning, but the fact is that they missed the warning signs of a cat that simply had enough. The tail is the key. If your cat starts twitching his tail in a jerky fashion, time to call off the petting has arrived. If you watch your cat’s body language, you can slowly build up your petting time. Three pats, then four, then five. Push up to, but never over, your cat’s level of tolerance and build slowly on your successes. Often these “I’ve had enough” attacks come if you have been petting your cat’s belly. This is a sensitive area for cats, and even if yours offers it to you, you’re better off petting somewhere else.
PLAY AGGRESION. Sure, it hurts all the same, but the cat who pounces on your feet the careens off the wall isn’t trying to hurt you-he’s playing. You need to increase your play sessions with your cat with an appropriate toy, such as a cat fishing pole or toy on a string- not one of your own body parts- to help your cat burn off his excess energy before you try for a quiet pet session. Use the spray bottle to let him/her know that attacks on you are not permitted.
REDIRECTED AGGRESION Your cat sees another cat, an intruder, outside your living window. He becomes enraged. You walk by, and he nails you. What gives? You were just the victim of redirected aggression. This one’s tough to fix. Try to discourage strange cats in your yard: Thump a window or make a loud sound.
One thing is for sure, only you can make the difference between owning a well-behaved, loving adult cat or an aggressive, frightened, shy, and/or destructive cat. One must consider the fact that different cats have different personalities. Some like cuddling and being held while others prefer to be petted and not picked up and/or held. Our job is to make the most of what we have in our very own, special kitty! Kittens and cats are not toys, nor can they be “mean” or “vindictive”. They simply act on instinct prompted by the situation and or, perhaps your reaction.
Potty Trained Pups = Happy Pups & Happy Owners
The first few weeks you have your puppy are the most formative in several regards. One of the primary behaviors that is essential for your puppy's life is proper potty/crate training. There are several steps to get your puppy trained as quickly as possible, but all steps have a common denominator - consistency! Crate training relies on your puppy's natural desire to keep it's bed clean. We encourage you to follow the tips below to help your puppy along during the potty training process.
#1 - Carry Your Puppy
Carry the puppy to the same location every time and use the same phrase or command to encourage the puppy to eliminate. Praise every success. Don't worry, you won't have to carry it forever - as the puppy matures, it can walk to the door itself!
#2 - Back To The Drawing Board
If the time is right and you know the puppy needs to go but he does not want to, return the puppy to the crate for five to fifteen minutes and then carry the puppy back outside to the correct site.
#3 - Praise Is Everything
Praise, praise, praise your puppy! Studies show that positive reinforcement is more efficient than physical punishment. Even if you are upset if your puppy has an accident, stay calm, and focus on the each and every win. Your puppy will want to please you!
#4 - Body Language
Watch for your puppy's body language. Circling, sniffing, walking backward, and pausing in a straddle position are all common prior to elimination.
#5 - Night-time Care
Only rise with your puppy the first week or so when they are new to the home; but remember, getting up every time the puppy asks only encourages this behavior as a chance to interact with you. Have the crate in another room so your puppy isn't disturbed when you roll over, snore, get up...etc. The object of crate training is to help them learn control of their bladder and bowel, not that they can go out anytime.
#6 - Routines Are Helpful
Puppies need to go outside after sleeping (even a short nap), after eating, before bed, and many times during play. Playtime is when most accidents occur. Restrict your puppy's access to most of the house. Be sure to put your baby in it's bed for naps to prevent "after sleeping" accidents.
#7 - Accidents Happen - Be Kind
If there is an accident, clean up with an enzyme-type pet odor remover. Do not discipline the puppy. Puppies learn to hide when they need to relieve themselves if they fear your reaction. The reality is that house-training is first learned by people then puppies.
#8 - Be Consistent
Do not use a modified approach to potty-training. What we mean by this is if you start with crate-training, switching to paper training can confuse your pet.
#9 - Tempted To Give Them A Treat? Think again
There is a time and a place for everything. Although rewarding your dog with a treat for potty training seems like a good idea, we advise against it. Puppies are smart, and learning that going potty = treats can soon get your puppy going to the potty all the time in order to get that coveted reward in addition to contributing to weight issues.
Why Crate Training?
There are several great reasons to crate train your puppy. Crate training your pet allows you to include him/her in all aspects of family life, while you still maintain control of your home. Here are just a few of those for you to consider:
The crate is your pet's safe haven, a bedroom, and small oasis when visiting children or guests cause mayhem or stress. Crating your pet is a loving task that greatly decreases the odds of your pet becoming a backyard dog. Every successful experience is important so make sure to give your puppy praise!