Cat Training – Effective Positive Reinforcement Techniques
Timing is absolutely critical in cat pet training in terms of using positive reinforcement. The reward for your cat good behavior must occur almost immediately, if possible within seconds. Otherwise your cat may not associate the reward to that particular action.
For instance, you can throw a piece of dry cat food for her to chase as a reward for any good actions such as using the scratching post. Many cats enjoy chasing (hunting) for their food and it’s definitely good exercise for them.
Consistency is the key in cat pet training. Everyone in your family should try to reward the same desired behavior. Any inconsistency such as rewarding when she is done with her scratching post and is walking towards you will only reinforce that there’s reward for walking towards you.
Using Positive Reinforcement in Cat Pet Training
Food treats, praise, petting or even a favorite toy or game are just some positive reinforcement you can use. You should reward your cat for every time you catch her performing the desired behavior such as scratching the scratching post. Instead of taking your cat to the post and holding her paws and demonstrating to her what she’s supposed to do will most likely frighten her and have the opposite effects of encouraging her to use it. Rather, you should try to entice her by placing a toy dangling on the post or spraying catnip (if she reacts positively to it). In this way, she will be more likely to perform the behavior again since it’s more comfortable to her. It’s important to always keep in mind to view her world from her point of view.
Once your cat starts on this desired behavior, you may want to reward her with treats constantly. For instance, reward for every three out of four times performed. As times goes by, start rewarding her lesser from about half the time to one-third of the time and so on, until you’re only rewarding her with praises and an occasional treat. But keep in mind that you will still have to carry on praising her every time. In this way, you won’t need to carry with you a pocketful of treats, but it’s definitely worth it to surprise your cat once in a while.
The Plus and Minus of Punishment
Punishment can take different forms. It can be verbal, postural, or physical and is meant to make your cat immediately associate something unpleasant when she does something you don’t want her to do. To make your punishment effective in any cat pet training, it must be delivered when your cat is engaging in the undesirable behavior – caught red-handed. Even if the punishment is delivered a few seconds later, your cat will not associate that punishment to that behavior. Instead, the punishments seem to be random for her.
Remember, cats are still animals. They do not have a sense of morals and definitely do not act out of spite or revenge.
Never use physical punishment that involves discomfort or pain as this may cause her to bite, defend her or resort to more undesirable behaviors. Hold your cat’s neck skin and shaking her are just some forms of undesirable punishments. Punishments that might associate with other stimuli is also not very good. For example, a cat that is punished for getting too close to a new baby might even become more aggressive towards babies in the future.
That’s why physical punishments are not advisable in cat pet training as it may erode your cat’s trust and frighten her. Instead, the most effective punishments are those that do not come directly from you.
For example, you may apply double-sided tape on your couch when your cat enjoys scratching it. Cats rarely like sticky paws and they will perceive the couch as delivering the punishment. In this way, your cat will not even have any undesirable behaviors when you are not around.
Another important key element to take note is that you will need to help your cat understand what you want her to do and provide appropriate outlets for her normal cat behaviors.
One of the reasons why cats are such fun companions is when they’re not sleeping. Many enjoy playing. Playing actually will help your cat develop physically as well as behaviorally. Having sufficient play outlets can reduce undesirable behaviors. You can also build great bonds with your cats by using the power of playing and eventually enhancing the quality of life for both of you during a cat pet training session.
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