2001-Sun Feb 26 14:18:55 EST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Does your cat seem unmotivated to pick up the desirable habits you’re attempting to teach him? Is he
clinging to the bad habits you wish he’d give up? Well, you’re not alone: Changing a pet’s behavior isn’t easy. But with patience, consistency and the right plan it is possible to train your cat to do what you ask.
A key concept of any
successful training plan is motivation. In the end, it’s all about ensuring the right behaviors pay off so that your cat is more likely to repeat them.
A common belief about cats is that they do their own thing, in their own time, on their own terms, with
no regard for what their owners may want. As a result, many
cat owners believe that their felines are untrainable.
In fact, cats are very similar to humans: They do what works for them and avoid anything that doesn’t. Just like us, our cats engage in behaviors that offer some sort of reward or pay off and avoid those that aren’t worth the effort or that result in punishment.
It is important to remember that you can’t expect your cat to do the things you want simply to please you. Imagine if your employer did away with your salary and benefits and expected you to continue working just to please your boss. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Your cat may share a deep emotional connection with you, but to successfully motivate him to change his behavior it’s important to pay him in a way that he values. Start by identifying what motivates your cat. Does he have a favorite toy? How about a favorite treat? Or maybe he’s the type who just loves to
curl up in your lap when you sit down. Identify the things your cat loves and then use them as rewards for a job well done. Be sure to offer a variety of rewards to keep your cat interested and stave off boredom. If play time is his favorite thing, for example, rotate toys on a regular basis to keep him interested.
Your cat also needs to see the
reward as worthwhile and equal to the effort he’s making. More difficult behaviors will require a more substantial or valuable reward than behaviors your
cat naturally does or finds easy. Your cat may also value rewards differently in different situations: A high-distraction environment may call for an extra special reward, like flakes of tuna rather than just bits of kibble. Your cat’s mood may also influence the value of a reward — petting may be reinforcing when your cat is calm and settled while a rousing play time may be most rewarding if he’s feeling active and energetic.
Finally, keep in mind that a reward only works to reinforce desired behavior if your cat sees it as a reward. So while you may think that petting and praise are a good way to acknowledge your cat’s efforts, your cat may not agree, particularly in situations where he’s
anxious or distracted. Tailor the reward to both his personality and the specific situation.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Dogs and cats help improve our mental,
social and physical health — and we
have the science to prove it!
We asked our readers to share the funny
things and skillful tricks their dogs will do
to get Milk-Bone® Pill…
It’s more than just cute when your kitty
naps in a box — it’s an instinctive
behavior that’s hardwired in her…
Herding dog, search-and-rescue dog, guide dog, police dog, farm dog — you name it, the German Shepherd can do it.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.