Ever tried to nail pudding to a tree?
That’s about what successfully training a cat would be like. Cats pride themselves in their independence, and the training of a cat usually ends in a successfully trained human owner who acts exactly like the cat planned all along.
That said, there are a few “subtle” maneuvers you can use to gently steer your cat in a direction more to your liking.
The trick is to either make the cat think it was her idea, or to bribe her enough to make it worth her while.
When attempting the process of training a bad cat, keep in mind that the cat doesn’t think she’s being bad…she thinks you’re being close-minded and should alter your perception of her behavior. There are a few rules to keep in mind that may help you and your cat reach a compromise…
The things you should never, ever do:
When training your cat, these are the moves that are just about guaranteed to make you need stitches.
- Punishing your cat physically. A flyswatter, a rolled up newspaper, or even a hand gently tapping the nose of a cat is a declaration of war. The white flags are down, and in your cat’s opinion, you just drew first blood. Her sole mission in life is now to finish the battle, draw last blood, and humiliate you at all costs. She wants to send you to your own vet, preferably in a crate, to get stitches and be neutered.
- Freaking out over the dead presents. No matter what you feel or how badly you want to scream and throw up when you (in clean socks) step on your cats “gift” of a mangled mouse in the kitchen, you should not have a fit. A fit means the cat accomplished her mission of exciting you. She doesn’t see the hissy fit as a negative thing…she believes you are jumping around in joy and pride, and will respond by promptly going out to find you another.
- Wiggling your bare toes enticingly next to your dust ruffle. If you have cats, you should just give up on the dust ruffle. It’s the perfect place to lay in wait, and your feet will experience many sneak attacks as you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Either wear steel-toed boots to bed or lose the frills. There is no training that will stop these attacks.
- Giving your cat a bath. Your cat will let you know if water is an acceptable form of cleaning and entertainment. If you have one of those rare felines, she will join you in the shower to let you know of her preference. Otherwise, leave the bathing to your cat’s tongue…she cleans herself quite well without your help, thankyouverymuch.
The Things that are Acceptable for Training a Bad Cat
Just as there are some sure-fire ways to get stitches, there are a few things you can do in training your cat that will work…or at least not end in bloodshed.
- Offering food. Treats are always acceptable. If your cat does something you like, be sure to offer something tasty. Sardines are good. Tuna is good. Vegetables are unacceptable. Packaged treats are acceptable, but sardines are definitely preferable.
- Using sound-deterrents. This one is not exactly popular with cats, but is an acceptable way to show her you definitely don’t want her to continue what she’s doing. It involves using noise (a clap or hiss, shaking a can of coins, or an air-horn) to startle your cat into stopping whatever it is she’s doing…usually an attack. Your cat will go pout for a while, but she won’t see it as a direct attack that requires retaliation.
- Using affection. Again, kitty likes it best if you reward good behavior and ignore the bad. Petting and loving attention in return for a purring and happy kitty is a good trade. You might even get a mouse-present later!
- Respecting space. There are moments that your cat wants nothing more than to be left completely alone. She may be in a bad mood, she may be tired, and (most likely) she may have just decided that she doesn’t want to associate with you at the moment. Either way, she’ll come back and be loving again sooner if you just let her have her way.
- Giving her a time-out room. This one is a lot like the noise…your cat will pout, she will cry and whine, but she will ultimately forgive you if you send her to a darkened room for a while when she’s bad. It gives her time to think, and she’ll be lonely for you by the time you let her back out. It might also have the added bonus of causing her to avoid the behavior that sent her away.