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.