Teaching Good Manners to Cats - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
CatForum.com is the premier Cat Forum on the internet. Registered Users do not see the above ads.
Closed Thread
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
Old 01-26-2011, 09:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
Cat Addict
 
librarychick's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: St. Albert, AB, Canada
Posts: 2,902
Default Teaching Good Manners to Cats

Teaching Good Manners to Cats

I am going to skip over how to responsibly get a kitten/cat, what to feed your pet, and anything related to vet care. There's lots of information about those topics here already, so I don't feel the need to rehash it.

I'm also making a few assumptions here. First off, that your kitten is healthy, eating well, and well socialized. If your kitten is ill, feral, or hasn't become comfortable with you yet you will see alterations to the basics to use. The basic principles can also be applied to adults, and I have added extra notes on how to use my tips for an adult cat.


Kitten Basics
I highly recommend everyone does these things with their kitten. It will help ensure you end up with a loving cat that you can easily handle and care for without stress to your pet or harm to yourself.

So, in order of importance IMO:
-Handling
-Paw Handling/Nail trimming
-Playing nicely with people
-Kennel training
-Wearing a harness
-Correction words


Handling

By 'handling' I mean that at least once a day you pick up your kitten, snuggle them and rub them all over. I suggest going top to bottom. Look in their mouth, eyes, nose, ears. Rub their chest, back, paws, tummy, hindquarters, tail.

With a kitten that's young, under 12 weeks, keep this breif and fun. Never, under any circumstances, put them down if they fuss! If they fuss simply hold the kitten firmly until they calm down, then continue your handling.
If you always put them down when they fuss you will not be able to do anything they don't like when they are an adult.
If the kitten shows over-the-top signs of stress you can put them down, and you should likely be more gentle next time. These signs include screaming (NOT just meowing), hissing/spitting, real biting or scratching. (Not Play biting/scratching...to see the difference keep reading)
(*note: for feral kittens see the feral's forum if they are over 8 weeks...under 8 weeks you might still be able to do this. It will largely depend on the kitten.)

Handling sessions do go better if your kitten is sleepy or has just had a big playtime. Don't try to snuggle a kitten who's in full play mode, at least not at first.


Paw Handling/Nail trimming

This is important enough to be separate from regular handling. Paw handling should be done anytime you are having a snuggle, or whenever they are calm enough. Make a point of being calm and relaxed when you do this, no tickling toes or you're making it a game which will be no fun with an adult.
Always try to exercise the kitten before you start paw handling.

Calmly hold a front paw, stroke it, gently play with their toes. Get a nice close look, no pressure yet. When they calmly accept this part move on to gently pushing each toe down so the nail pops out. Hold it their gently for a second, then release. Do this with each toe on each paw, not necessarily all at the same time. Don't stress them out with paw handling.

When you can easily manipulate each toe start introducing trimmers. Cradle the kitten with one arm, with that hand hold the paw out and hold out a nail. I like to practice this posture as that will also help reduce stress. Have the trimmers nearby, sneak them out and snip the very tip of one claw. Do the rest of your paw handling normally, no more trimming! One nail a night for as long as it takes.
Gradually work up to the point where they don't care at all when you trim, but don't release them even if they fuss. (Think of fussing at this point more like a temper tantrum. If you give in they learn it works!)
When one nail is easy work up to two nails, then three, ect. Go very slowly. If you become impatient and stress the cat out you could very easily wind up with an adult cat who will not let you trim their nails.

With an adult cat who hates nail trimming you go even slower. Start by having a yummy treat in one hand, and gently running you hand down their leg starting at the shoulder. Pay close attention to your cat, when they tense keep your hand where it is, feed them the treat, and be done.
Do this step until you can calmly handle their paws, using treats as necessary. You are teaching them that people holding their paws brings yummy things.
Then very gradually work up to trimming one nail. Keep in mind with an adult cat you are also having to build trust that may have been broken, or never given. If you push them to fast you take several large steps back, and you lose their trust!


Playing Nicely With People

Cats don't do things on purpose to annoy/hurt us. They just don't think that way.

To fix the issue you need to be aware that you pet isn't hurting you on purpose. I find that really helps with increasing your patience, because that's what you're going to need lots of!

When kittens want to play with each other they start the game with a pounce. Keep that in mind and be grateful that your pet wants to play with you. If she does pounce you as an invitation to play you want to teach her a new way to start the game.
You'll see a certain glint in her eye, a wiggle in her walk, when she's about to pounce you. Before she does pounce you grab a toy that will keep the play away from your body. Wand toys or laser pointers are best at this stage. I ask my kitties to sit before I start a game, I leave that option up to you.

If she has already pounced you keep in mind that she is trying to get you to play, and that you didn't catch it before she pounced. Even though it hurts when b\she bites and scratches show as little reaction as possible. She is hoping to get a reaction out of you, so if you react she is 'winning'. That means she's getting what she wants, a reaction, so she will continue to do that behavior.
The best thing you can do is ignore her and wait her out. If she gets to the point where you cannot ignore the behavior then stand up and go lock yourself in the bathroom, interacting with your pet as little as possible. Don't even look at her.

Wait until she calms down/leaves you alone and then go get a toy. I suggest something either very large like a big stuffed animal, or something like a laser pointer or wand toy. Basically something she can't misinterpret to be you.

Make sure you pay attention to her lots when she's being nice. When she's a sweet nice kitty that's when the toys come out and when you show her the most attention. This way she learns that being good is the behavior that gets her the things she likes.

Basically you give her lots of fun things when she's good, and no fun things when she's naughty.

Along with this I suggest getting her used to a kennel or 'naughty room', and a harness. Use lots of yummy goodies to introduce both to her.


Kennel Training

In my house I leave the kennels open, with a towel in each. The kitties regularly nap in them, and I have them scattered throughout the house so that there's lots of options. This makes the kennel a nice place rather than 'that scary box that takes me to the man with the needles!'
I'll address older cats who are already terrified of kennels at the end of this section.

With a kitten simply use treats and toys. Throw something fun into the kennel, let her go in and 'discover' it. Praise her for going in the kennel, ect. make it an enjoyable place to spend her time.

I also use kennels when my cats have been naughty. When Doran was about 12-14 weeks and he tried to get me to play by biting I would say "Doran, uh uh." And wait. If he did it again I would calmly pick him up and place him in a kennel for a short time. Less than 1 minute. When I brought him out again I was ready with another toy and we would play with that instead.
If he again tried to bite same deal, back in the kennel for a short time out.

The key to a time out is that you must be calm. All you're trying to teach her is that if she's naughty the fun stuff goes away. Timeouts should never be longer than 5 minutes, and that only to clean up a mess without tripping over a kitty!

For adult cats you must go slow. Just like with the nail trimming. Start by taking the door off the carrier, otherwise they can bang and scare an already cautious cat. Leave the carrier in one of the rooms you use lots, and put yummy smelly treats just inside the door. Then pretend like it doesn't exist. Continue pretending it doesn't exist for as long as it takes for your cat to investigate it. very skittish cats, or cats who HATE the kennel won't eat the treats or go anywhere near the kennel when you are in the room. That's fine, just keep refreshing the treats until they will go in or eat the treat with you there.

When they are calm with you in the room, or near the kennel practice just throwing treats and toys in. When they are completely comfortable that's when you progress. If you don't need to use the carrier for time outs then just make that your nightly treat place. Give them a bedtime, or morning, treat there every day. That way when the time comes for the vet they'll have no issues jumping right in the carrier for you. Ta DA!


Wearing a Harness
Partly because I had two kittens at once, partly because I was concerned what would happen with Jitzu and Torri, and partly because they were just so darn naughty my boys wore harnesses until the were over 6 months.
I liked the harnesses because I could use them to safely remove the boys from the (many) sticky spots they got themselves into, and to catch them if they did something especially naughty or dangerous.

With little ones just put the harness on, tighten it so there's no way they could get their jaw or paw in it, and leave it on. Kittens might fuss about it, but they'll get over it very quickly. Practice putting it on and taking it off too. use lots of treats to take off and put on the harness, and try to do it as quickly as you can.

With an older cat it is still possible to put a harness on them...once. if you need to harness train a cat use lots of treats, and don't even try to put it on them at all for at least 2 days. Then just put the head part on briefly, long enough to feed a treat, take it off, feed a treat.
progress that way until they are comfortable putting it on. Then put it on, make a trail of cookies and when they reach the end of the trail take it off. this will teach an adult cat that they can still walk with a harness on.
If they simply freeze and lie on their side take two steps back, and go slower.


Correction Words

You need to be able to tell your pet when she is about to do something naughty, or dangerous. I say 'Uh uh'. To my kitties, that means "You are doing something mummy doesn't like, consequences will come if you don't stop."

Don't pick "No", we say it waaaay too often when it has nothing to do with our pets, this can confuse them and make it less effective. If you use 'No' you get one f\of two responses, generally.
1. They always ignore the word 'no'. So even though you might be screaming "No! Ginger NO!. Bad cat! NO! NO NO NO NO NO! Not my lamp!" *crash*
Your cat is thinking Mum just keeps saying that word...I already know it doesn't mean anything. You said it to Dad earlier, and to the thing that has other peoples voices coming out of it, and you say it to the little person LOTS. I get it, it doesn't effect me.
2. They never ignore the word 'no'. this usually happens to skittish or nervous pets, especially smart ones who want to please you. They react every single time you say that word. So when you're telling your husband/significant other you don't want dinner your pet is thinking Oh god! What did I do? I'm sorry Mum, I didn't mean it!
Not fair.

Other than that what sound you pick is up to you. Don't pick their name because you want them to think good things when they hear their own name, but you can pick "bananas!" or "Golf!" whatever floats your boat.

When you use a negative word you also have to have positive words that happen when they are doing the right things. Make a point of saying certain words (short is best) when good things are happening. typically we pick "Good", "Nice", "Pretty", ect. That's fine as in this case it's mostly the tone that will convey your meaning.

So, for example:
Jitzu is on the counter. I say "Jitzu, uh uh." Wait a second as she jumps down, then say "Good girl Jitzu!" And pet her. She learns I like it when her feet stay on the ground, and I pet her when I like things, so that's good.

When you start using a correcting word you must ALWAYS give them a different behavior to do, then make that the better choice.
Don't jump on the counter, sit on this stool and get treats.
Don't claw my furniture, here this cat tree smell like catnip!
Don't scratch/bite me, kill this toy.
This way they will learn which behavior it is that you DO like, and they will do it more often.
(Keep in mind that even though you don't like what they are doing it might still be something their instincts tell them to do. So it's not really 'bad', just undesirable.)

As of now this is Part 1. If enough people express an interest, here or via PM I'll make more.

Enjoy and good luck!
__________________

Becky and the cats: Jitzu (9), Torri (6), Doran (5), and Muffin (5)
librarychick is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
Old 01-26-2011, 11:00 PM   #2 (permalink)
Cat Addict
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: SC
Posts: 1,583
Default

I think you have some great advice her for new cat owners, but I do have a few questions/comments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by librarychick View Post

Along with this I suggest getting her used to a kennel or 'naughty room', and a harness. Use lots of yummy goodies to introduce both to her.


Kennel Training

In my house I leave the kennels open, with a towel in each. The kitties regularly nap in them, and I have them scattered throughout the house so that there's lots of options. This makes the kennel a nice place rather than 'that scary box that takes me to the man with the needles!'


I also use kennels when my cats have been naughty. When Doran was about 12-14 weeks and he tried to get me to play by biting I would say "Doran, uh uh." And wait. If he did it again I would calmly pick him up and place him in a kennel for a short time. Less than 1 minute. When I brought him out again I was ready with another toy and we would play with that instead.
If he again tried to bite same deal, back in the kennel for a short time out.
I find this a bit contradictory. We want our cats to like the kennel and not fear the kennel, but yet they should also feel that it is a punishment? Also, what would you suggest if your cat doesn't respond to time-outs (Pumpkin never did)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by librarychick View Post
Correction Words
You need to be able to tell your pet when she is about to do something naughty, or dangerous. I say 'Uh uh'. To my kitties, that means "You are doing something mummy doesn't like, consequences will come if you don't stop."

Don't pick "No", we say it waaaay too often when it has nothing to do with our pets, this can confuse them and make it less effective. If you use 'No' you get one f\of two responses, generally.
1. They always ignore the word 'no'. So even though you might be screaming "No! Ginger NO!. Bad cat! NO! NO NO NO NO NO! Not my lamp!" *crash*
Your cat is thinking Mum just keeps saying that word...I already know it doesn't mean anything. You said it to Dad earlier, and to the thing that has other peoples voices coming out of it, and you say it to the little person LOTS. I get it, it doesn't effect me.
2. They never ignore the word 'no'. this usually happens to skittish or nervous pets, especially smart ones who want to please you. They react every single time you say that word. So when you're telling your husband/significant other you don't want dinner your pet is thinking Oh god! What did I do? I'm sorry Mum, I didn't mean it!
Not fair.

Other than that what sound you pick is up to you. Don't pick their name because you want them to think good things when they hear their own name, but you can pick "bananas!" or "Golf!" whatever floats your boat.
I actually do both of these and it usually works. I think that the difference is that I use tones. I very rarely yell or use angry voices, so when I do (no matter what it is I'm saying) my cats know something is up. I could see where you would have to do it your way if you have lots of animals or kids running around the house, but I think "no" and their names used in different tones just as effectively communicates with animals in quieter homes. I don't think I would ever use "code words" in general though because I might need other people to be able to care for and communicate with my cats.

Just my opinions; I really do think most of it is good advice. I would love to hear your feedback
swimkris is offline  
Old 01-27-2011, 09:48 AM   #3 (permalink)
Tom Cat
 
bkitty's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 439
Default

The kenneling technique is actually quite effective if used correctly. Think of it as the same as the naughty chair for a toddler. It is not for punishment, it is to redirect behavior and to remove the cat from any extra stimulus. If you keep the time the door is closed down to a minute or two this will give the cat enough time to reset their mind set & interupt stalking or attack behaviour. I do refer to it as Kitty Jail - I have enough space to have all the carriers set up with blankies and the brat cats all rotate in & out for naps or just to get away from one of the other cats who is being a pest. Tuffy on the otherhand has been jailed enough since kittenhood, that he recognizes the signs of Momma has had enough & will retreat to his kennel at top speed to hide out at least until I've stopped howling and have the blood mopped up.
bkitty is offline  
Old 01-27-2011, 01:30 PM   #4 (permalink)
Cat Addict
 
librarychick's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: St. Albert, AB, Canada
Posts: 2,902
Default

Ok...I have read both your comments, and swimkris I fully intend to respond, but I've tried four times now and I'm fed up with having the internet eat my carefully expressed replies so I'll respond later once I'm home.

...*sigh*
__________________

Becky and the cats: Jitzu (9), Torri (6), Doran (5), and Muffin (5)
librarychick is offline  
Old 01-27-2011, 04:58 PM   #5 (permalink)
Cat
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 155
Default

Awesome! You made the thread!

All of it sounded like good advice, but I also have a question about the kennel. If its where they go when they are "bad" or doing something undesirable, etc, wouldn't that undermine the "oooh yay awesome place" you are trying to get them to associate it with?

Or is that why its limited to a minute or two tops, so it isn't viewed as a bad place to your kitty?

I think this should be stickied, btw.

Sorry your internet is messing up. That can be very annoying!
Sharpie is offline  
Old 01-27-2011, 06:17 PM   #6 (permalink)
Tom Cat
 
bkitty's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 439
Default

I give special treats and toss toys in their kennels as well as having them available for napping hidey spots. My guys may use them as hidey spots because I do have multiple cats & the younger ones are darned annoying to the older ones. It seems to be the younger ones who get Kitty Jail for being destructive, nipping or being aggressive. I start with time-out in Kitty Jail starting at 6-7 weeks old, same techniques as I used for my kids and grandkids and the naughty chair. I only corral them long enough to distract them from the bad behavior. Cats aren't dumb just really really stubborn. Tuffy may be the exception to this - he is a derp.
bkitty is offline  
Old 01-28-2011, 12:51 PM   #7 (permalink)
Cat Addict
 
librarychick's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: St. Albert, AB, Canada
Posts: 2,902
Default

Ok, I have found a way to get around the internet issue. Hopefully this works better than it did yesterday.

Quote:
Originally Posted by swimkris View Post
I find this a bit contradictory. We want our cats to like the kennel and not fear the kennel, but yet they should also feel that it is a punishment? Also, what would you suggest if your cat doesn't respond to time-outs (Pumpkin never did)?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharpie View Post
Awesome! You made the thread!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharpie View Post

All of it sounded like good advice, but I also have a question about the kennel. If its where they go when they are "bad" or doing something undesirable, etc, wouldn't that undermine the "oooh yay awesome place" you are trying to get them to associate it with?

Or is that why its limited to a minute or two tops, so it isn't viewed as a bad place to your kitty?
The first thing you need to do to understand why this doesn’t cause issues with the box is change your understanding of a timeout. I suppose a better phrase would be ‘settle down box’.

Normally when we think of a timeout we think of kids. “Go to your room and think about what you did, Mister!”
With kids you can explain to them what they have done wrong, and send them to go think about why what they did was wrong and what they could choose to do instead.

You can’t do this with cats. As tempting as it is to think that your cats do things purposely to irritate you the fact is that they aren’t capable of it. Cats do things because their instincts tell them to, or because the behavior has had a result that they like previously; basically because something about that particular act is rewarding for them.
Because of this timeouts aren’t used as ‘punishment’ they are simply for getting the animal to calm down or as a consequence for inappropriate behavior.

When you give them a timeout it’s all in how you do it. When one of my cats gets a timeout I calmly pick them up and deposit them in the kennel. They stay there up to 5 minutes (now that the boys are 2, and that would only be if I was cleaning up a mess that required the cats out from underfoot) and then they come out and I try the behavior again.

Ex:
Muffin is play wrestling with me, and bites my hand too hard. I would say “Muffin, uh uh.” Then wait a second. If he keeps that pressure, bites harder, or bunny kicks my arm too hard I then pick him up and place him in the kennel for a 30 second timeout. When I let him out I have gotten a big toy ready that he can bite and kick all he wants.

If they stay in timeout for too long they forget why they were put in there in the first place. Then all they’re thinking is “Man this is boring. I should make sure that next time mum doesn’t catch me so she can’t put me in this boring box.”

As for when a timeout doesn’t work that would generally mean one of a few things.
a) The behavior is more rewarding than the timeout is corrective. Ex: stole a chicken breast and ate it…timeout is worth it.
b) The timeouts are inconsistent. Ex: You catch your cat on the counter 3 times in 15 minutes. The first time you chase them off the counter, the second you give a time out for 1 minute, and the third time you chase them off the counter.
c) The timeouts are too long. Ex: you give a 10 minute timeout for counter surfing. Every time you catch them on the counter.
d) The timeouts were not associated with the inappropriate behavior. Ex: you find your cat on the counter, but before you can place them in timeout they jump down and run away. You chase them, catch them, and put them in timeout. Effectively putting them in timeout because you caught them, not because they were on the counter.

When used properly I have yet to meet a cat who doesn’t respond to timeouts. That being said sometimes the behavior is too tempting, or the cat is a little slower than normal to catch on. But keep trying timeouts whenever you catch them in the act.


Quote:
Originally Posted by swimkris View Post
I actually do both of these and it usually works. I think that the difference is that I use tones. I very rarely yell or use angry voices, so when I do (no matter what it is I'm saying) my cats know something is up. I could see where you would have to do it your way if you have lots of animals or kids running around the house, but I think "no" and their names used in different tones just as effectively communicates with animals in quieter homes. I don't think I would ever use "code words" in general though because I might need other people to be able to care for and communicate with my cats.


I do agree to a certain extent that it should be the tone, however, when people first start working with their pets too much emotion in your tone can confuse the animal. Until you’ve learned how to do it changing your tone to match your meaning rather than your emotions can be difficult for many people.

I never recommend using ‘no’ as it’s a word that we use so often either your pet always ignores it, or they always listen. This can be quite frustrating if they have decided it’s just a word you say a lot that has nothing to do with what they are currently doing. That’s why I use “Uh uh” which only relates to my pets and an inappropriate behavior. So there’s no way they can become confused about my meaning.
Of course that sound only works if you follow it up by giving them an alternate behavior to do instead. Otherwise that ends up meaning nothing as well.

Don’t think of them as ‘code words’. Try to think of it as communicating as clearly as possible with an animal who doesn’t speak English. Tone is a great communicator, but can still be fuzzy about meaning sometimes. If they can recognize a short enunciated syllable then they have no doubt as to your meaning and their expected response.

As for confusing guests or another caregiver, all my friends know the cat’s correction word. But if I hear them give a correction it is then my job, as the owner, to step in a deal with the behavior. It isn’t their pet, it’s mine. That way I know that the situation is dealt with the way I want, rather than to someone else’s standards that my pets aren’t aware of. Once the behavior train is set (correction, alternate behavior) all they need is some form of corrective, which is when using a tone becomes more important than the word because by this point they should know which alternate behavior to demonstrate. So really they’ll respond to anything your pet sitter/friend says. You’ve done all the work and they get to reap the rewards, lol.


And another huge response for you folks Congrats if you read the whole way through, and sorry for my sometimes teacher-y tone. Lol, can’t help it.
__________________

Becky and the cats: Jitzu (9), Torri (6), Doran (5), and Muffin (5)
librarychick is offline  
Old 01-28-2011, 12:52 PM   #8 (permalink)
Cat Addict
 
librarychick's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: St. Albert, AB, Canada
Posts: 2,902
Default

Ah HAH! It worked!

Thanks for all the kinda comments folks, they are apprecitated!
__________________

Becky and the cats: Jitzu (9), Torri (6), Doran (5), and Muffin (5)
librarychick is offline  
Old 01-28-2011, 01:32 PM   #9 (permalink)
Tom Cat
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 421
Default

thanks, this is very well written. I need to get my kennel out again.
__________________
mimitabby is offline  
Old 01-28-2011, 05:02 PM   #10 (permalink)
Cat Addict
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: SC
Posts: 1,583
Default

Thanks for the response! I think the difference with Pumpkin was that she was very very stubborn. For instance, if she jumped on the table while we were eating dinner, I would tell her "no" and lightly scoot her off, but she would turn around and bite me with her pointy kitten teeth. After I moved her to another piece of furniture across the room, she would come back to immediately bite me again. I would move her back across the room again, and then she would come back to bite me for a third time...and so on. This same thing would happen no matter what "punishment" I would give her; I tried the face blowing thing, spray bottles, loud noises, hissing, ignoring her, time-outs (in the bathroom with her favorite rug rather than a kennel), re-directing with toys/food, etc. The only thing that EVER made a difference in her behavior was having another cat around. I mean, she might have grown out of her naughty phase after a few months, but it was so bad that a vet even told us she needed to be socialized pronto. Pumpkin turned sweet when I cat-sat my friend's cat Yoshi, relapsed to "evil" when Yoshi left, then turned angelic again when I adopted Simone. It was the strangest thing, and I was just wondering if you had ever run into a situation like this?
swimkris is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
Closed Thread

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -4. The time now is 04:51 AM.



Powered by vBulletin® Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
SEO by vBSEO 3.3.2
PetGuide.com
Basset.net DobermanTalk.com GoldenRetrieverForum.com OurBeagleWorld.com
BoxerForums.com DogForums.com GoPitbull.com PoodleForum.com
BulldogBreeds.com FishForums.com HavaneseForum.com SpoiledMaltese.com
CatForum.com GermanShepherds.com Labradoodle-dogs.net YorkieForum.com
Chihuahua-People.com RetrieverBreeds.com