I see people on a daily basis who struggle when it comes to training their cats. They end up confused, frustrated and ready to give up. Many times, the problem just comes down to one thing: they’re sending mixed messages. If you’re struggling with some aspects of training your cat, part of the problem might be due to some inconsistency on your part. Cats are always learning and what they learn from us and how quickly they learn it will depend on whether we’re sending a clear message or not.
It’s easy to send mixed messages and not even realize it. For example, your cat jumps up on the counter and you don’t want him there so you pick him up to place him back on the floor. In the process though, you also give him a kiss on the head or talk sweetly to him. So, just what message did you send to the cat? Kitty received the message that jumping on the counter is a good way to get attention from you. Later in the day the cat might jump on the counter again but this time it’s your spouse who is in the room. Maybe your spouse is less tolerant of the counter surfing behavior so he yells at the cat or shoos him off. Now the cat is receiving an entirely different message.
Is it Yes or No?
Another example of inconsistency occurs when you allow the cat to do something some of the time and then punish him on other occasions for that very same behavior. Back to our example of counter surfing: he’s either allowed there or he isn’t. If your plan is to let him up there when food isn’t present but reprimand him for jumping up to that same spot when there’s a roast up there, it’s very confusing.
Family Members Need to be on the Same Page
Inconsistency can be a problem with families when it comes to training the cat. One member of the family may allow a cat to do something but another family member may not. The poor cat is stuck in the middle. This commonly happens with behaviors such as begging at the table, counter surfing, sleeping in the cat parents’ bed, drinking from the faucet or playing with objects that aren’t toys (such as pens, ponytail holders, etc.). There’s always one softie in the family who just can’t say no to kitty when he wants something but then the cat ends up getting reprimanded by another family member for the very same behavior. Not only does this cause failure in the training process, it also is stressful to the cat.
Work with your family to establish consistent rules so your cat won’t get caught in the middle.
Need More Information?
For more specific information on cat training and behavior, refer to any of Pam’s books.