Training your Cat
Training your Cat
You might be surprised to learn that some cats can be trained to retrieve, walk on a lead and learn tricks – the Siamese breed in particular are very receptive to training, even competing in feline Agility events. Most cats can be trained to recognise their name, as well as to come on command.
Training Check List:
- Scratch Post
- Scratch Deterrent Spray
- Litter Tray
- Cat Litter and Hygiene Products
- Cat Flap
- Light Weight Lead
Cats scratch furniture for a number of reasons, one of which is to mark their territory (cat's paws have scent glands that leave their own special scent). Scratching also serves as a form of exercise and keeps your cat in shape. The act of scratching stretches and pulls and works the muscles of a cat's front quarters. Cats also scratch because they enjoy it!
Scratching posts are a great alternative to your prized sofa but there are a few tips to getting your cat to use one:
- Place the scratching post in a well used room in clear sight and not hidden away in a corner. Once your cat is used to the scratching post you can position it where you like.
- Make sure the scratching post you choose is tall enough so that your cat can fully extend her body and ensure it's really sturdy so it doesn't fall over when it's being used.
- Choose a scratching post that is made of a material that is appealing to your cat. There are a wide variety available from sea grass and sisal which are ideal for shredding with their claws.
- Encourage your cat to use the scratching post by rubbing it with catnip or dangling toys from it for her to play with.
- Try leaving a few cat treats near the scratching post.
- Discourage your cat from her usual scratching areas by spraying scratching deterrents on the affected areas.
Scent marking is different to urinating and is part of a cat's natural behaviour when marking their territory. Cats will often scent mark by spraying up walls and furniture if they feel insecure or stressed. Scent marking generally occurs in cats that haven't been neutered or spayed or in families where there is more than one cat.
- Check with your vet that there are no underlying medical issues that are causing your cat to scent mark.
- Try to reduce your cat's anxiety. If other cats are visiting your garden shoo them away and fit a magnetic or microchip cat flap to prevent intruders.
- Use a repellant spray or gel to discourage your cat from scent marking.
Cats are easy to toilet train and most kittens are toilet trained by the time you bring them home as they learn to use a litter tray by copying their mother. To help train your cat gently place them in the tray after they eat, when they wake from sleep and if you see them sniff, scratch, or crouch in a corner. Older cats who are accustomed to going to the toilet outside find a litter tray useful if they are arthritic or if the weather is wet and cold.
- Choose a litter box that is easy for your cat to use. A low sided plastic tray is ideal and you can always change to a covered tray later.
- If you have more than one cat you should have a litter tray for each one as they do not like to share!
- Place the litter tray in a quiet secluded spot that has easy access and is away from your cat's food and water.
- Keep a litter mat under the litter tray to catch litter that your cat scatters whilst digging.
- Choose a suitable litter for your cat – some cats prefer clumping litters to other types and some older cats prefer softer litters that are kinder to arthritic paws. Always make sure your cat has enough litter to exhibit normal digging and burying behaviour. There are a wide variety of scented and unscented litter liners and cat litters available to choose from.
- Clean the tray regularly and thoroughly as your cat will not use soiled litter or an unclean tray. Only use disinfectants and deodourisers specifically made for cats as some household products are toxic to cats.
- If you are pregnant, never handle soiled litter because of the risk of toxoplasmosis.
The best way to clean up after little accidents indoors is to use a purpose made stain remover and deodoriser. Using ordinary household disinfectants and cleaners do not get rid of the smell – your cat's nose is very sensitive, so just because we can't smell any residue it does not mean that she can't! Any scent left behind will encourage her to go in the same spot again. Most household cleaning products are based on ammonia and your cat will mistake the smell for the correct area to relieve herself. If your cat keeps on returning to the spot there are pheromone based sprays available that have an odour that cats find repellent.
You should contact your vet if your cat is having problems using the litter tray as this may be a sign of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) which could be fatal if left untreated. Other signs that your cat may have underlying health issues are straining to urinate/defecate, spending a long time in the tray, visiting the tray frequently, and licking their genital area or blood in their urine.
Walking on a lead
Not all cats can be trained to walk on a lead but some will take to it if you exercise patience and perseverance.
- Cats are escape artists, so it is important to choose a good fitting harness that she can not squirm out of. You should be able to comfortably slip two fingers between the harness and your cat's skin. You will also need a light weight lead.
- Begin by putting the harness on your cat before you feed her indoors. Let her wear the harness whilst she is eating and then remove it.
- Repeat this daily for a week until your cat has become accustomed to wearing the harness, leaving it on for longer each time.
- Once your cat is familiar with wearing her harness attach the lead and let your cat walk around the house allowing her to drag the lead behind her. Be careful that the lead does not get tangled up around furniture.
- Repeat this daily for at least a week until your cat accepts being on a lead.
- The next step is to hold the lead loosely and follow your cat around the house. Do not pull on the lead or restrict her movement. Practice this for a few days.
- Now that your cat is used to the harness and being attached to the lead coax her to follow you by lightly pulling on the lead. Praise your cat and talk to her as you do so to encourage her.
- Gradually move on to taking your cat outside. Try walking her in the garden or back yard. Slowly increase her exposure until she is happy to walk with you.
- Walking a cat is not like walking a dog as cats vary their pace. Sometimes you cat will lead you and sometimes you will lead your cat! Never drag your cat along with the lead if she is trying to wander off. Stop and wait, give a light tug and release, but don't pull.
- Never leave a harnessed cat unsupervised.