For many people, one of the best attractions of cats is their independent nature. However, it must be appreciated that this means that it is less easy to train a cat compared to a dog. A dog usually wishes to please its owners and to earn their praise, whereas a cat’s main concern is itself. Fortunately, a cat needs less training than a dog and is usually far more unobtrusive. All that is usually needed is some firm and consistent handling from the start and it is largely a matter of good common sense. In some cases, an owner may need to be firm for quite a time as a cat may try to assert itself and fail to realize who is supposed to be in charge.
Cats soon learn to respond to the inflections of their owner’s voice and a cross tone can be an effective deterrent, although it is a mistake to shout as this may simply frighten a kitten. Also, they intensely dislike loud sharp noises, so clapping the hands or striking the top of a table with a rolled-up newspaper highly effective. Simple command words like ‘no’, ‘get down ‘bad’, ‘out’, etc, should be used as a part of training. Then it is a matter of consistently checking bad and undesirable behavior an soon as, and each time, it appears, so that the kitten gradually learns what is acceptable. For instance, if it uses its claws or teeth when being played with, the owner should say ‘No’ sharply and perhaps tap the kitten’s nose or paw with a finger. The kitten must be told to ‘Get down’ each time it climbs on a chair, if this is not acceptable to its owners, and lifted down onto the floor.
Training a Kitten
One of the most annoying and destructive habits that cats can have is to sharpen their claws on furniture. Claw-sharpening is part of the repertoire of normal behavior, its purpose in the wild being to ensure that the claws are in good order for climbing and for fighting, if the occasion arises. It is the front ones that are sharpened, and the cat does this by standing or sitting on its hind legs and raking its extended claws down a suitable surface. Claw-sharpening also helps to mark the cat’s territory and apparently helps to impress and repel possible rivals.
To correct this behavior when it is applied to the furniture, it is necessary to be very firm and possibly even tap the kitten with a rolled-up newspaper. Alternatively, the kitten should be sternly told off, or a sudden noise made at the moment it starts to behave in this way. The kitten should be provided with a scratching post on which it is allowed to use its claws. This can be purchased from a pet shop or one can be made at home. It consists of a firmly anchored upright post, usually set in a wide, square or rectangular base, and covered with some suitable material, such as carpet, rope, sacking or canvas.
Alternatively, a log, branch or fence post nailed to a suitable base can be provided if the cat’s owners do not object to having this in the house. Each time the kitten makes any attempt to claw the furniture, it should be firmly rebuked and then removed to the post and its front paws placed on this so that it can learn to use this instead. It is also a good idea to play games with the kitten, getting it to chase a piece of paper tied to a string up and around the scratching post. In this way it will dig its claws into the post and be encouraged to use that rather than the furniture for this natural aspect of feline behavior.