Can Cats be Trained?

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Thanks to their natural independence and aloofness, cats interact with others on their terms, but can a cat be trained? The answer is a resounding yes! Like dogs, cats respond to praise, but not so much for treats. You will have to find a reward that your cat will work for in order to train him. Cats have short attention spans; a typical play session only lasts 5 to 10 minutes. Training sessions need to be just as short (if not shorter).

Cats can easily be taught to fetch. Start with a furry ball toy. To reinforce the behavior, reward with food (or whatever you’ve found that will work) or praise (petting, words or both) when they return the toy. Start out by having them fetch a short distance and reward every time. When the cat gets bored and walks away, end the session and try later or the next day.

You can teach your cat to use the human “facilities.” Some cats have a natural interest in this, but most cats can be trained to do this, but it takes a lot of patience. The younger you start training your cat (before he starts using a litter box — and we all know how ingrained that behavior is!), the easier it will be. The easiest way to train is to purchase a potty training kit for cats. Or try this homemade way: Start by placing the litterbox near the toilet. Gradually start to raise the box off the floor. (The cat always needs to be able to use the box without falling off the step or falling into the toilet.) After a few weeks, place the box on the toilet (lid up, seat down). When he’s comfortable with this, take a heavy-duty foil turkey roaster pan and secure it under the seat onto the toilet base. Place litter in the pan. Gradually put a hole that gets gradually larger through the tray until your cat is standing on the seat with a hole the size of the bowl in the pan. Then you take away the pan and your cat will be using the toilet.

Leash training is another easy trick. The key is to find a proper-fitting harness that won’t allow him to slip a collar nor stress his neck. Keeps all walks short and always praise. This is much easier when you start during kittenhood, but it is possible for an adult cat to grow to love it. (After a long period of the “flop”. You know what I’m talking about.) When your cat grows tired, it’s okay to pick him up and take him home. A cat will never walk the same as a dog, think of it more as a preamble than a true walk.

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Cats: The Indoors vs. Outdoors Debate

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Don’t be fooled: Even though your cat has been domesticated, at his core, he is as wild as any of his wildcat cousins. If you asked your cat he might say that he’d be happy to divide his time between living on his own outside and living with you inside. No matter how badly you try, there is no way for you to provide as stimulating an environment as the outdoors. Letting your cat live outdoors, even part of the time, cuts down on maintenance (no litter!) but presents a whole host of other problems.

The two biggest reasons to keep your cat indoors are for disease prevention and a cat’s life span. Outdoor cats are at increased risk for rabies, feline leukemia, fleas and other diseases. With proper vaccinations and medications, you can prevent (or manage) these hazards. Outdoor cats frequently get into fights with other cats. These injuries (depending on the severity) can be easily managed and treated, but it will cost you money each time. Every time your cat gets into a fight, he must go to the vet to be checked out. If any bite becomes infected, you will have a major crisis on your hands.

The life span of an indoor cat ranges from 12 to 20 years. The life span of a feral cat is only 3 to 4 years! An outdoor cat is at increased risk of getting hit by a car and these injuries are usually always severe or worse, fatal.

There are numerous ways to let your indoor cat experience the outdoors without turning him loose on the neighborhood. You can train your cat to walk on a harness or leash. (Note that the younger your cat is when you start training him, the better and faster he’ll learn to accept it.) You can also build your cat an enclosed pen; this way your cat can experience all the outdoors has to offer but he cannot run off anywhere. If your backyard is fully fenced so your cat can’t get around to the side of your house or to the front yard, you can always let him out into his enclosed backyard. There’s always the option of letting him experience the outdoors from his carrier or crate.