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How to Make Your Cats Life, and YOUR Life, Happier - Training Your Cat

Imagine that you are scolding your cat for scratching at your new furniture, and Kitty is sitting staring at you. Suddenly you realize how silly you look and how futile your scolding is. So how do you train your cat to respect your home?

All cats can be trained and should have some training from their owners. You will need to train your cat to use her litter box, sharpen her claws on the scratching post instead of your couch, and to stop negative behavior when you say "no." Cats can also learn to do "tricks," and the mental stimulation of learning is good for them.

Cats learn the same way dogs and people learn; they repeat behaviors that have a pleasurable result. The best way to train your cat is to reward her when she does something right. The reward might be a small piece of a special food, or lots of praise from you in a happy, high-pitched voice.

Training to change negative behaviors requires you to catch your cat "in the act." For example, if your cat uses your stereo speakers as a scratching post, wait until she is about to put claw to fabric, then firmly say "NO." The moment she freezes and turns towards you, switch to the happy voice and praise her. Move towards her to distract her away from the inappropriate object. If she makes any movement towards you praise her even more. Timing and repetition are the keys to success here. You must catch her as she moves to act inappropriately, and praise her the exact moment she stops.

Things to remember if your cat scratches your furniture

* Understand your cat's need to scratch.

* Forget punishment - it doesn't work.

* Provide a suitable place for your cat to scratch such as a scratching post

* Make the scratching post attractive to Kitty

* Make the place she's been scratching unattractive - physical or scent related deterrents will work

* Whenever possible, start cats young.

* You may want to trim your cat's claws.

Training simple tricks can be incorporated into daily playtime. Always keep some cat treats in a pocket during training time. To teach your cat to "shake hands," begin by saying "shake," then touching your hand to the underside of one of her front paws. Praise her for letting you touch there, and give her a treat. Repeat this over and over again. Eventually, you can lay your hand flat on the floor just in front of her paw. Say "shake" and wait. If she even moves her paw towards you praise her and give her a treat. Little by little, she'll catch on that every time she touches your hand with her paw she can get you to give her a treat. Once she willingly touches your hand, you can start to raise your hand off of the floor a little bit at a time. Keep training fun. Stop the session before she loses interest, and always end on a positive note with a reward.

You can use the same one-small-step-at-a-time technique to teach your cat to walk on a leash. This allows you to take your cat outside for fresh air and sensory stimulation without having to worry about her running off. Purchase a cat harness from a pet supply store. Before you even try putting it on your cat, simply leave it lying by her bed for a day or two. When she is used to seeing and smelling it, loosely put it on her just before her normal mealtime. Hand-feed her food to distract her from the harness and to make wearing it a pleasurable experience. Remove it when the food is gone. After a few days, you can let her wear the harness around the house. Let the leash drag behind, but watch to make sure it doesn't become tangled around furniture. When she seems comfortable with the harness and leash, pick up your end and walk with her, letting her lead the way. Eventually she will walk willingly beside you, and you can both venture outdoors.

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