Have you heard many times that it is useless trying to train cats? How many times would you have liked to know how to correct your cat?
Well, I have to tell you that cats are great “trainers.” Think about it, they have trained you to cater to their every whim.
With their sibylline Meow, they get you to give them food, caresses, to open the door for them. They know how to get what they want from you, because they know that you are motivated by the reward they give you : they offer you their love! You have been trained to respond to your cat’s requests!
Your cat has managed to “train you” by applying positive reinforcement, he has managed to make you do “good things” for him by rewarding you with his affection, in that way you carry out “his orders” over and over again.
But guess that? Cats have taught us a valuable lesson. We can change the rules of the game … watch out cats, now it’s our turn!
You may also be interested in: How to make your cat obey you
Positive reinforcement for good cat behavior
It is a process that consists of rewarding your cat with something that he likes for doing what you want him to do.
When I speak of “positive reinforcement” I mean reinforcing any good and appropriate behavior in a cat. Appropriate behavior (scratching a scratching post) would serve to eliminate unacceptable behavior (scratching our sofa or chairs).
Many “bad” behaviors arise from a feline biological need (scratching, urinating and defecating, climbing, etc.), in this case, if you do not offer your cat another adequate way to express that need, it will be very difficult to eliminate them.
What you must achieve is to find out what motivates your cat to perform a “desired behavior” and use that motivation as a reward for him to repeat and forget to do the other “undesirable behavior”. For example, many cats are motivated by food (especially treats), which would be an appropriate reward that can serve us.
But for those cats that don’t respond well to food or are on a restricted diet, you can always use love or sweet talk as a reward, or even a short play session with their favorite toy. Or a clicker , which becomes the reward once you have trained your cat to recognize the association between click and treat.
Basically, you have to show your cat that you have something he wants, and that there is a way he can get it.
Basic steps to follow in positive reinforcement
1. Use rewards to teach new behaviors
The usual, to reward cats are treats or food. Less effective are caresses and loving words.
2. Provide the right motivation
The cat’s motivation to perform the “desired” behaviors is achieved with the reward that you will give him when he performs them .
Smart cats will soon link that behavior with getting treats.
3. The reward must be immediate
Timing is everything to train your cat. Cats have a short attention span, so the reward must come immediately (in seconds) from the behavior or your cat may not understand what it is for.
4. Reward consistently
This is an important part of the training. Give the same kind of reward every time your cat behaves the way you want and make sure the rest of the family does the same. Consistency means that you and everyone else in the home consent to and reject the same cat behaviors.
5. Train at the right time
The best time to train your cat is the hours before eating , when it is most motivated by food. Only train for short periods at a time (15 minutes maximum) or your cat may lose interest. As soon as it stops responding, stop training.
6. Control the delivery of sweets
Since too many treats can make your cat obese, your goal is to gradually remove them from the rewards and make her settle for other emotional treats such as a toy, praise, under the chin strokes etc.
Once your cat shows the “desired” behavior on a regular basis, cut back on food , until only the occasional treat needs to be rewarded.
Punishing cats just doesn’t work
You should always focus on positive reinforcement to help your cat establish better habits. Rewarding your cat for good behavior is fun and improves your bond with him. The more times you can reward the “desired” behavior with a treat, the more often you will see that behavior repeated.
On the other hand, punishment in any form (yelling, hitting, using a squirt gun, throwing objects directly at your cat) is not effective. Cats do not learn from punishment unless it is applied continuously, and you will certainly not be around to catch your cat in the act 100% of the time.
Unless punishment is applied consistently and immediately (within seconds), your cat will not associate his behavior with punishment . And what do you think will happen to your relationship with your cat if you are punishing him all the time? I tell you, he will begin to distrust and fear you, which can even trigger strong aggressiveness in your cat . Punishment will only serve to damage the cat-human relationship, and that is surely not what you want.
How you can apply positive reinforcement every day
Here are some ideas to use positive reinforcement to make changes in your cat’s daily behaviors , these are just examples, but positive reinforcement can be applied to almost any behavior you would like to achieve:
1. To improve your social behavior
If your cat is shy or new to the home and tends to hunt, you can get her out by using treats to reward her. At first, keep your insistence brief, don’t tire him, then try using more positive reinforcement (treats, sweet words, affection, etc.) to motivate him to stay away from his hiding place for longer.
2. Get your cat to accept petting
If your cat doesn’t like to be petted, try giving a treat, then petting him. Reward longer stroking sessions with more rewards, watch her body language, prevent her from having a negative reaction.
3. Encourage the use of a scratching post
You can encourage regular use of your cat’s scratching post, rewarding each time he uses it.
4. Reward your calm or calm demeanor
If you’ve had a problem with your cat meowing or being aggressive to another cat, you can reward good behavior by using treats or games.
5. To teach you tricks
You teach your cat all kinds of tricks with positive reinforcement: sitting, lying down, going up, down, jumping, etc. Look up cat tricks on YouTube or buy books like Cat Training in 10 Minutes
Reward the behaviors you like about your cat. It’s pretty simple: if you want your cat to repeat a behavior, reward it.
Don’t forget that you shouldn’t reward behavior that you really don’t want to encourage.
What if my cat gets bored with his reward?
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you always give the same reward to achieve a certain behavior , your cat may soon get tired, lose the incentive.
What you can do is award a reward based on a variable schedule : don’t reward a “desired” behavior with a treat every time it gets it right. Better reward your cat’s behavior only 50% of the time, this actually creates STRONGER reinforcement in the long run than rewarding him all the time. Your cat will be more motivated to know if he gets a reward when he performs the behavior we want.
Positive reinforcement for good cat behavior is a great way to improve the bond between you and your cat, and let him know what your desired behaviors are. And it doesn’t just work on cats; As I mentioned at the beginning, positive reinforcement works with people too! Who will you train first?
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