My husband and I recently moved into an older home with our short-legged, tennis ball chasing dog and our bob-tailed cat. The little black Dachshund tries extremely hard to please us. We are convinced she understands the English language as well as most humans. The cat, on the other hand, only cares about pleasing us when it pleases him to see us pleased. And that is surprisingly quite often.
So how did we train him to be so cooperative?
We trained him like a cat.
Our dog was trained by consistent rewarding for good behavior, in addition to crated time-outs after unwanted actions. That method works great for dogs.
However, this training protocol is insufficient for cat education. First of all, cats are never wrong, so any punishment is useless. They know they don’t deserve it, so it only makes them mad because you are just being cruel.
Secondly, cats care little about treats or rewards. Nothing we can provide comes close to matching the taste of a fresh juicy warm mouse. No cat toy can equal or exceed the fun of smacking a half-live wriggling mouse around and subsequently tenderizing it between teeth and claws as it attempts to flee.
So we trained him like a cat.
He can do anything he wants, when he wants and how he wants. He can jump on anything as much as he wants. He can sleep all day long, if he is pleased to do so.
The dog does not understand. She thinks the cat gets away with everything. Not true though, the cat has boundaries. His boundaries are simply set at his whim and are therefore much larger than what is allowed for the dog.
We do tweak the cat’s behavior from time to time. For instance, my husband was changing the locks on our house. He had his tools laid out as he concentrated on his work. The cat wandered over and swatted the drill with a left front paw, knocking it over. So my husband calmly reached over and set it back up, continuing to work.
The cat paced a big slow circle, came back to the drill and swatted it down a second time. So my husband swatted the cat’s behind with the back of his gloved hand. Not hard, my husband used about the same amount of force the cat had used to knock the drill over twice.
The cat swung his behind to and fro and flexed his nubby tail as he sauntered away calmly across the deck. He was not retreating, mind you, just finding a suitable place to ponder his next move and contemplate his training. He plopped his body down about 10 feet away and just looked at my husband.
If cats could talk you could soon be rich by installing a Swear Jar.
After a few moments the cat flopped his whole body back and stretched out flat. Then he rolled over with all four feet in the air to relax his abs. You could see he was deliberating whether any of this training was worth the effort.
Okay, he decided it was.
So to his feet the cat hopped and then trotted over to where my husband was still working on the lock. The cat did not smack the drill nor knock it to the floor. (See, he was now trained and compliant) He reached out and slapped my husband’s gloved hand, claws retracted, his message was clear.
High Five Dude! Thanks for training me!
And then he walked off, because he had better things to do with his time than to focus solely on his training.
That is how you train a cat.