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Training cats

Training and maintaining the cat at home

The concept of training a cat is probably not something most owners think about or contemplate, and yet much can be achieved with a gentle approach and positive reinforcement. The earlier training is started, the more successful it is likely to be, but while training kittens and getting them accustomed to certain procedures and activities is highly desirable, older cats can also be trained. 

Reward based training

Using positive reinforcement to reward and encourage desirable behaviours is always far more successful than any attempts to punish undesirable behaviours – the latter is always likely to be counter-productive and should not be used. 

Cats are rarely as food-orientated as most dogs, and so positive reinforcement usually involves finding treats that a cat especially enjoys and using these to reward appropriate behaviour (while ignoring undesirable behaviour and providing acceptable alternatives). 

Training can be enjoyable for the cat and fun for the owner. Cats can be taught to respond to their name, to sit, to give ‘high fives’, etc., but training can also be used to make sure the cat becomes acclimatised to and readily accepts a variety of situations or interventions such as: 

  • Getting used to using the cat carrier 
  • Getting used to travelling in the car 
  • Combing and brushing the coat 
  • Clipping the nails 
  • Brushing the teeth 
  • Examining the mouth, eyes and ears 

If owners are encouraged to train their cat and get them accustomed to these procedures on a regular basis using positive reinforcement it can have a big impact on healthcare and the ability of the owner to help with routine health procedures at home. 

For more information on training cats, read the book The Trainable Cat by Dr John Bradshaw and International Cat Care’s Head of Cat Advocacy Sarah Ellis.