Little miss PURRFECT

Cats are smart – and have their own personalities, here’s how to teach kitty etiquettes.
  • Cats do acquire a working vocabulary of many words, and every cat has her own individuality. Your cat can be taught by positive reinforcements.
  • First, cats learn language by being talked to. Try to use the same words over and over. Talk to your cat when giving her treats, petting her, when grooming her, when playing with her, and when handling her. Let your tone of voice carry message as well as your words.
  • Cats learn from physical reinforcement. Take your cat to a scratching post if she scratches your furniture or rugs. Put her in the litter box and scratch her front feet in the litter box. She will understand. Do this several times for a cat being first introduced to your household. When you want your cat to learn to come being called, reinforce this by always offering a treat or food when you call her, and call the same way each time. For example, “Here kitty, kitty, Moonbeam Kitty” every time you put out food or offer a treat.
  • Most important, cats do NOT learn from punishment. Almost never is physical punishment a good tool to change your cat’s behaviour in a direction you want. Instead, you must focus on positives: Provide opportunities for good behaviour. Reinforce good behaviour when it occurs with treats, petting, and praise. Reinforce your own positive presence by treats and by play.
  • Eliminate stressful interaction opportunities whenever possible.

(Kit Humphrey, featured columnist of Cats & Kittens, is a retired physician from Siberian Gatos Cattery in the US)