2. We Learn the Same Way
When it comes to behavior, consequence plays a big role. If a behavior is rewarding it will most likely get repeated. When you were a child, wasn’t it helpful to have consistent rules and know that you were being taught and guided with love? Consistency is important to humans and to cats. It’s easier to learn and follow rules when you know what’s expected of you and that rules aren’t being changed from one day to the other. Using physical punishment and intimidation just creates fear and can damage the emotional bond, whether training a cat or a child.
3. We Like Having Choices
Nobody likes to feel backed in a corner without any options. We prefer having the ability to make choices about aspects of our lives and cats feel that way as well. Training has a better chance of being successful if you offer choice. When you don’t want a cat to do a particular thing, it’s more productive to understand the motive behind the behavior so you can offer a better option. That method helps with people as well. Having choices reduces frustration and helps the person or cat feel as if they have some degree of control over their own behavior. Here are a few examples of how to offer choice to your cat.
- Give your cat the option to stay in the cat carrier during veterinary exams by using a carrier with a removable top.
- Give your cat the option to choose an allowable elevated location by providing cat trees or window perches instead of just shooing him off counters or furniture.
- Give your cat the option to choose how close he wants to be by observing his body language and letting him set the pace of interaction.
- In a multicat household, give your cats the option to use a litter box that provides the degree of security they need by having multiple boxes in various locations around the house.
- Provide open and hidden napping areas so your cat has the choice of his level of visibility.
4. We Need to Play
With humans, it can be anything from board or video games to competitive sports. Don’t underestimate the value of having fun because it actually helps release dopamine which is a neurotransmitter associated with feeling good. Playtime helps humans learn, reduce stress, strengthen bonds and maintain physical well-being overall.
Playtime for a cat typically involves mock hunting by stalking and pouncing on toys. Just as with humans, when cats play there is a release of that beneficial dopamine. Playtime for a cat helps build confidence, maintain good body conditioning, reduce stress, strengthen bonds with other companion animals or with humans and it’s an important tool in overall environmental enrichment. Playtime is one of the best ways to build trust when working with a frightened or shy cat. We all need playtime in our lives no matter what our age.
5. We Benefit from Enrichment
Without enrichment humans and cats can become susceptible to boredom, depression, loneliness or frustration. Enrichment for humans encompasses a wide variety of options such as music, books, movies, TV, outings, time with friends or family, sports, and so on. Cats need enrichment as well and it’s actually very easy because you don’t have to worry about taking kitty out for dinner and a movie. Enrichment involves creating a safe and healthy home, opportunities for daily playtime, interaction with you, places to climb, nap, scratch, stretch and have fun (such as cat trees, scratching posts, beds, perches, etc), good nutrition, veterinary care, access to resources that are adequate in number and conveniently located, and training based on love and understanding of what a cat needs.
6. We are Protective of What is Ours
We lock our houses and our cars. We write our names on items so others will know what belongs to us. We keep close watch over our personal items such as purses, wallets, phones, money and credit cards. We’re careful about the people we let in our homes. We use security systems and/or surveillance cameras. We protect our children. For cats, the fact that you have the house locked doesn’t mean much. Cats don’t know whether danger is lurking around every corner. Danger can be found in the fact that a companion cat is resource-guarding the feeding station so no one else can get to it. Perhaps the danger is that in order to use the litter box, a cat has to pass the family’s very aggressive dog who consistently attacks. Maybe a new cat has been brought home and the resident cat is totally freaked out at the possibility of this intruder taking over his territory, stealing his resources and threatening him.