Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cat-Whisperer: De-bunking the "cats are not trainable" Myth

I used to be guilty of the "cats are not trainable" myth - I have two cats, Oatmeal & Raisin (O&R). Oatmeal is the rambunctious boy that is so loving but so bad at the same time. Raisin is sweet and is generally very passive. You can guess which one was causing me (more) trouble. You got it! Oatmeal!

Based on my experience in the past year with them, I will teach you the methods I witnessed and debunk the myth and convince you that cats are indeed trainable!

During their entire 5-year old lives, they basically had been able to do anything they wanted - jump on and walk on the kitchen counter, sniff and lick at any thing they darn-well pleased, scratching my (old) couch. For myself, I wasn't bothered, but when I had friends come over and see that, I could see their distaste, especially O&R roaming on the kitchen counters. Don't get me wrong - I had tried to train them as kittens, but I was not firm or repetitive enough, so yes, they literally walked all over me.

In comes mid-2010 - I started dating Ed (now my fiance) - he has turned out to be a cat-whisperer! His background with cats is he's comfortable enough around them, but has never owned one himself. How could he?! Half his family hate cats! ;o( Anyways, I complained to him about the way O&R behaved, my main concern was to get them off of the kitchen counter, especially when we were cooking. He said "Let's train them!" I was a bit apprehensive about it (since I believed the myth) but I said "Ok let's try it!".

We went down a list of tactics:

  1. Telling them firmly to get down (NO SUCCESS)
  2. Spreading aluminum foil on the counters to scare them when they jumped up (NO SUCCESS)
  3. Growling and hissing at them when we were unhappy with them on the counter. Ed was better at this because his growling and hissing ability surpassed mine, but also because he was firmer and held his ground. His lesson that he had to drill into my head, is that I (being the parent) needed to be the main person to stand my ground, be firm, and be repetitive to have success. (MODERATE SUCCESS)
  4. I suggested water sprayers, he got small water guns (HIGH SUCCESS!). Whenever they got on the counter, method 1 and 3 were performed, and then water guns were shot at them. Eventually it got to no more warnings with methods 1 and 3, just straight to the face with water guns. It's amazing how quickly this method worked, I would say about 3-4 days they started to listen, but after a week it was ingrained. I was concerned that they may get respiratory infections from water being sprayed on their face, but luckily this didn't happen (I also think this may be a myth).

Now O&R are a picture of perfection. When I'm in the kitchen cooking, they are very well behaved sitting on the floor, just wanting to be near. No way would they think about getting on the counter. When I am NOT in the kitchen, yes they still roam the counters occasionally. O&R were basically adults when this training occurred, now imagine if this would have been taught when they were kittens. But the bottom line is, cats can be trained at any point in time.


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