When I visit my clients to resolve cat behavior issues, one topic almost always comes up as a “by-the-way-can-you-help-me-with-this” question. And that question is: “how can I get my cat to stop jumping up on counters and table tops?” Many cats just LOVE to hop up on tables and counter-tops, scavenging for food, knocking stuff off shelves, or getting in our way. And for many of us, that’s just not appropriate behavior. Why do they do this? Counter-surfing cats seek out work-surfaces for a few reasons.
Why, oh why, is spraying cats with water still a thing? In looking around online and talking with people, I find that – over and over again – people are drawn to using a squirt bottle to either discipline or punish cats for unwanted behavior. Even shelters and those who should know better are still recommending the use of spray bottles or squirt guns. With everything we now know about cats, learning, and behavior, we need to update this antiquated mode of trying to teach cats to stop one behavior and do something different!
Even though our cats have fur and four legs instead of being mostly hairless and able to walk upright on two feet, many of us consider our cats to be part of the family. We humans take on the role of cat parent or guardian, and we are responsible for the well-being and care of those under our watchful eyes. In most family units, there are four major parenting styles people have with their human children. I decided to take a look at these and see if there are any parallels to how we take care of our cats, and guess what? There are! Having an understanding of the type of cat parent you are (or what you’d like to become) is an important factor in the well-being of your kitty.
You know how some people say that cats can’t be trained? Well, I’ve gotta tell you – those people have got it all wrong. In fact, cats have got the whole training concept down – they are masters in the art of training! Think about it – they’ve already got YOU trained to respond to their every whim – they meow, you give them food. They jump on your lap, they get pets. They know just how to get what they want from you, because they know that you are motivated by their reward: a little bit of their precious attention! You have been trained to respond to your cat’s demands. You have been positively reinforced by your cats to do good things for them because they reward you with their affection, so you do those things again, and again, and again. But guess what? They’ve taught us a valuable lesson. We can turn the tables on them, and you can learn how to use positive reinforcement for good cat behavior. We’ve caught on to your game, felines, and now it’s our turn!
No matter what type of cat you have or what her personality is like, mutual trust in each other must be learned so that you can both enjoy a happy, healthy, relationship. Whether your cat is shy or fearful, bold or aggressive, there are things you should do to foster her confidence and faith in you. It’s much easier to build your cat’s trust from the get-go then to try to re-build it after you’ve broken it; however, cats are often forgiving creatures and they don’t hold grudges (and they never act out of revenge or spite – cat’s just don’t think that way). With time, you can improve (or repair) the relationship with your cat to one of comfort, ease, and predictability. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to build your cat’s trust.
Think that behavior training can only be done with dogs and birds? Think again! You’ll want to include cats in the list of “trainable critters” after reading this article, and with just a little inspiration, I’m hoping that you will use what I’m going to share with you to start on a cat-training adventure. Whaaaat??? Yes, you can train your cat! And it’s a lot easier than you might think – you just need to find out what motivates your cat and use that to reward desired behavior.