Can I Really Train My Cat?
Yes, you can train your cat - but you have to have realistic expectations. If a cat doesn't want to jump through a hoop, a cat will not jump through a hoop. You have to give the cat a really good reason for jumping through a hoop. When I think about how to train my cat to do what I would like her to do, I think about how I'd like to be trained. I'd rather be given rewards when I do right than be smacked for doing wrong.
Not So Great Expectations
When I train my cat, I know I'm not training a dog and I'm not training up a child in the way he should go. I'm working with a cat. I have to expect the cat to learn at her won pace. I also have to accept that she will perform at her own pace. When I train my cat, I must always be patient, persistent and keep a sense of humor.
For example, if I'm going to train the cat to come when called (which can be done), I have to use the same command. It's no good using one word one day and another word the next. I also need to be consistent with the reward when I train my cat. My cat does not have a big appetite and is getting on in years. What she does love is attention, so her reward is attention, affection and praise.
Picture It In Your Mind
Whether or not you believe cats can read minds, clearly picturing the desired behavior in your mind can often help get through to the cat. Remember, you do talk a different language that your cat and you are in a rush while cats have all the time in the world. Some animal behaviorists say cats can read their owner's body language for clues. If thinking about what you want the cat to do helps give you the correct body language, then by all means, do it.
Reward Good Behavior
When I train my cat to come when called, I reward good behavior with a lot of affection and spending a few minutes generally adoring her. When she doesn't come when called, I ignore her entirely, until she comes within reach. This is pretty much the pattern in training my cat to do much of anything.
Some cats work very well with clicker training, although I have yet to train my cat using that method. This is where you make a noise (usually a little click) and then immediately give the cat a treat. Like Pavlov's dog, they soon associate the sound of the click with a treat. Other rewards could be affection or playing with a special toy that is only given in times when I train my cat.