It’s not too often you’ll see a cat “Shake a paw” or “Sit” on command, unlike their doggy counterparts! But, just because most cats will not perform elaborborate tricks, does not mean that they can not be trained. If your kitty possesses personality quirks you find undesirable, you may want to consider positive reinforcement as a form of training, and encouraging preferred behaviors. Positive reinforcement is often met with more enthusiasm and cooperation than negative reinforcement, or punishment which may foster resentment or fear in your pet.
Positive reinforcement is based on the principle that rewarding desired behaviors will encourage these behaviors to be repeated. When your kitty does something “good”, like using the scratching post instead of your couch, or bringing you his/her favourite toy to play with you, you should reward them! You may use praise, or attention as a reward, but often the most powerful motivator for cats is usually food (each kitty is unique though, and you should find what works best for yours)! So give your kitty a nice treat immediately after she/he does something you like! Your kitty will then associate this behavior with treats, and will keep him/her motivated!!
It may feel natural to want to yell or punish your kitty when you come home and your carpet is in shreds… But punishing your kitty after they have done the deed and forgotten about it will not be effective. Most likely your kitty will think they are being punished for what they are currently doing (which is most likely lounging around adorably, oblivious to your ruined rug). Instead, you should provide kitty with an alternative outlet to the undesirable behavior, like a scratching post, or mat, and reward them when they use this alternative. If you catch them in the act of doing something “bad” try telling them NO firmly, and directing them to the more appropriate outlet.
Remember when you are training your kitty, that the reward needs to be immediate to be associated with the preferred behavior, and you need to be consistent during the training period as well! Punishment is not such a great tool for training, as it is often doled out after the fact – and is unpleasant! You don’t want your kitty associating you with this unpleasant interaction, or they may grow to resent you, or be fearful of you.
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