An Overview of Cat Behavior Training Techniques

Cats provide their owners with companionship and affection, but sometimes, their behavior can be frustrating. Many people assume that cats cannot be trained, but cat behavior training actually is possible. In order to train a cat, you must first decide why the cat is engaging or not engaging in a particular behavior. Is it behavior that you are trying to prevent or trying to encourage? The philosophy is to discourage bad behavior and reward good behaviors.

Why Cats Misbehave

Some behaviors that drive cat owners wild are chewing, scratching furniture and curtains, spraying urine, not using the litter box, jumping and biting. Reasons behind these behaviors may include teething, boredom, curiosity, surprise, stress or anxiety. Introducing the cat into a new environment, leaving a cat while traveling, or introducing new people or pets to a household can cause stress and also instigate bad behavior. Once you identify why your cat is not behaving the way you want, you can take steps to train him to behave correctly.

Discouraging Bad Behavior

Discouraging bad behavior can take the form of refusing to play with a kitten and ignoring him when he starts to bite or scratch. You can also discourage bad behavior by providing an unpleasant response to the behavior. This is called negative conditioning. An example of negative conditioning would be squirting your cat with a water bottle when he starts chewing on a houseplant; maybe not a nice practice, but it is effective. You are pairing a negative response to a negative behavior, and eventually, you will not have to squirt the cat to prevent his chewing. He will recognize that when you start to go for the water bottle, its time for him to stop chewing, or better yet, not to even start.

Encouraging Good Behavior

Encouraging good behavior entails pairing a pleasant consequence with good behavior. This is called operant conditioning. An example of this type of conditioning would be to hide some catnip in a scratching post so that when the cat uses the post, he also has access to the catnip. Clicker training is a form of operant conditioning. A cat is trained to understand that when he hears a clicker, he is going to get a reward, most likely a treat, something good to eat. Clicker training starts out by loading or charging the clicker. This means that, initially, when the cat hears the clicker, he automatically gets the treat. Then as the cat performs the correct behavior during training, he hears a click and gets a treat as a reward. After awhile of this training, the cat performs the expected behavior with cues that were conditioned with the clicker.