Friday, September 28, 2007

Cat Training

Cat training done properly will help you get the right cat behavior out of your cat. (As opposed, say, to proper dog behavior.)

Cat training doesn't have to be difficult or mysterious. In the video I uploaded (Mean Kitty – Episode 1), Cory “Mr. Safety” Williams hires a witch doctor to train his cat not to bite.

Honestly, cat training doesn’t require witch doctors, psychics, or astrologers to be effective.

First of all, you have to understand that cats are not human. They don’t perceive the world as we do, and they don’t think like we do. We really have to stop the bad habit of anthropomorphizing.

To hear some people talk, you’d think that their cats were just little people in fur coats. If my late cat Saki could hear them, she’d be rolling her eyes.

But to get back to cat training, the sensory world of cats is very different from ours. They can hear things we can’t, smell scents we can’t detect, and their sense of touch extends beyond their body (think cat whiskers). Their vision isn’t as acute as that of humans, but they have wider peripheral vision, and they have far better night vision.

You don’t have to cram your head into your kitty’s skull to figure out the best means of cat training.

You just have to think in terms of reward and punishment. Sentient creatures all seek pleasure and run like hell from pain (boy, do I know that one!).

So what you do is get the cat to associate its behavior with either pain or pleasure. In the long haul, positive reinforcement works better than aversive conditioning, so it makes more sense to reward your cat for good behavior than to punish it for bad behavior.

If the cat’s doing something you don’t like, simply ignore her. For instance, if the cat’s jumping up and down on your face at 4 in the morning, do not – I repeat, do not – get up and feed it. Because once you do that, then you’re doomed for life. You’ll be forever bound to get up in the wee hours to succor the demanding, wee demon. You’ll just be a sucker, and you know it.

Ignore the cat. Pretend you don’t see her, hear her, feel her. Even if the cat ratchets up her assault, stay put. Lie low. You’ve seen the footage: In the case of a nuclear attack, duck and take cover. It’s the same principle.

From watching the video, I can see that Cory Williams has got it all wrong with Sparta, a.k.a., Mean Kitty. He’s giving the cat too much attention by writing lyrics and shooting videos for Sparta; all he’s doing is reinforcing the cat’s bad behavior.

Although I did say that you shouldn’t punish your cat, if your cat’s doing something highly objectionable like biting your hand or tearing up your Le Corbusier couch, then you need to take immediate action.

One thing that will immediately stop a cat is to clap your hands and shout “No!” Or else squirt her with a water pistol.

No that any of these techniques ever worked with my cat Saki. If I yelled “No,” she looked at me like she thought I’d lost my mind. As to the water pistol, I gave that away to a friend with a small child.

All I can say is that in a matter of mere months, Saki had me well trained to feed her on cue.

In conclusion then, when you know what you’re doing, cat training can be fun and easy.

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