Essential Training for Every House Cat

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Cats are cute. However, they’re also bossy. As humans, we can’t seem to resist the cuteness of our feline friends, and we end up letting them run the house. The cute, cuddly cat catches on quickly that we’ll give him anything he wants, and the next thing you know, your entire life is being run by his whims. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, and you can’t really have a happy life with your cat when the cat is in charge. Therefore, every cat needs some basic training for a more harmonious life with its human companions.

The first, most basic thing you need to teach your cat is how to use the litter box.  Believe it or not, cats are not born with an innate knowledge of how to use the box. If you bring kitty home and neglect litter box training, you’ll soon be coming home from work or school to some unpleasant surprises. Fortunately, it’s easy to teach your cat to use the litter box, as using it conforms to some of their most natural instincts.

The easiest way to teach your cat to use the box is to place him in it after each meal until he gets the hint. It shouldn’t take long. Cats evolved in the desert, and have a natural instinct to “go” in the sand. Most cat litter has the consistency of sand, so it isn’t a huge leap for kitty to figure out the box is where to leave his waste. Since cats are very clean creatures who want to mask their presense from other cats, they already have the instinct to cover up what they leave in the box, so your cat’s box should never get too messy if you clean it often enough. If there IS a consistent mess, your pet may have a health problem, such as diabetes, and should be checked by a vet.

If you’re bringing home an adult cat who has already been litter box trained, getting him to use the box at your house is as simple as showing him where it is immediately upon bringing him home for the first time. He’ll remember where it is the next time he needs it.

The next most important thing for house cats to learn is to not scratch up your furniture. Scratching is a natural instinct for a cat. It helps them relieve stress, as well as assists them in shedding the outer sheath of their claws to keep them sharp. Your cat is GOING to scratch. You can’t stop it. But you CAN give him a better place to do it. 

There’s no excuse to not have at least one, and preferably more than one, scratching post for your pet. Then, if you see your cat scratching your furniture, immediately pick him up and take him to his scratching post, placing his claws gently against the post. This will teach him that this is the appropriate place to scratch, and he’ll eventually go straight for the nearest scratching post when he feels the need to scratch. In the meantime, you can buy certain sprays from the pet store that you can spritz on your furniture to deter kitty from scratching there.

Next, you need to teach your cat to ride in a carrier. If you take vacations and want to bring your cat along (or if you don’t have anyone at home to take care of him when you’re away), carrier training is essential. It’s also necessary for your cat to travel in a carrier if you’re moving to a new home, or taking him to the vet. Start with this training as early as possible, putting a favorite blanket or toy and a treat in the carrier. Then, gently coax kitty inside. Make the first few trips pleasant ones, just drives around town, so your cat won’t associate the carrier with something unpleasant. Soon, your cat will run straight into the carrier whenever you open it up for him.

The most important thing to remember when training a cat is that the earlier you start, the more likely the training is to stick. The older and more set in his ways a cat gets, the harder it will be to break him of any bad habits or teach him anything new. That’s not to say an older cat can’t be trained, because they can. It will just take longer and require more effort on your part. But if your cat is doing anything that’s unacceptable to you, teaching him good behavior for your household is key to you living happily together. Training time can even become bonding time and bring the two of you closer together if you do it nicely and gently (and there’s never any reason why you shouldn’t).

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