Category Archives: training your cat

How to Keep Cats Off Your Kitchen Counters


By Julia Williams

Cats are notorious counter surfers. Dogs do this too, but cats have an advantage over some dog breeds who would counter surf, if only they could jump that high. Nearly all cats, except very old or obese ones, are agile enough to get up onto the kitchen counters. I don’t believe they counter surf just because they can, though. My cats get onto the counters because that’s where the food is. It doesn’t matter that I never leave any food out; they see me preparing food there, and one can surmise that they keep checking every day on the premise that it could happen.

I don’t really know why they counter surf, but I do know a thing or two about how to keep cats off kitchen counters. I’ve had plenty of practice at that, especially since Rocky joined my household six years ago. For reasons I can’t fathom, this cat has major food issues. Rocky is on a “seafood” diet – i.e., he sees food and he eats it. He has perfected his food-snatching technique as well, and can snag food off the counter in a nanosecond.

All of the different methods I’ve tried to keep Rocky off the kitchen counters don’t work for long, but they do work for my other cats and I think they’d also work for most cats. Rocky is just “special,” and I’ve learned to either watch my food like a hawk while preparing it, or lock Rocky in the bedroom until every morsel is put away. It’s simpler that way and it works for me, unless I have a memory lapse.

Such as, the time I baked some cookies that came with caramel topping. I watched him carefully as they cooled enough so I could drizzle on the gooey caramel. Because the caramel needed to harden before I could put them away, I took Rocky with me into my home office. A short while later I realized I’d forgotten all about the cookies, and Rocky. He sauntered in, licking his chops. Uh-oh! I ran into the kitchen to see how many cookies he’d eaten. To my surprise the cookies were still there – but they were licked clean of all the caramel!

Here are some things you can do to keep cats off the kitchen counters. Try one, and if it doesn’t work, try another, because dirty cat paws that have been digging in a litter box have no business being on the kitchen counters.

Clean up after food preparation, and never leave anything edible on the counter. You might be surprised by what foods a cat will sample, especially if you have a feline like Rocky. Plus, if they find a tasty tidbit on the counter one day, they’re more likely to keep checking it.

The spray bottle is a classic cat training tool that I’ve used successfully (on every cat except Rocky, of course). Spray a fine mist of water into their face when they are on the kitchen counters, and tell them firmly to “get down.” Most cats hate water, but a fine mist won’t hurt them and they quickly learn that the counters are a no-cat zone.

Coins in a can is another method I’ve used to keep my cats off the counters. You just give it a good shake; the noise startles them and they jump down. This worked for Rocky until he got used to the noise. I’ve used a whistle too, but it scared my other two cats too much (and seemed unfair since they’d done nothing wrong).

Sticky tape on the edge of the counter is touted as a good cat deterrent, but I found it very inconvenient.

Booby traps: there’s a hilarious video online of an invention called the Blender Defender. This homemade booby trap features a motion-detecting blender and strobe lights that activate when a cat jumps up on the kitchen counter. In the video, the unsuspecting cat jumped four feet in the air and promptly fell off the counter. Price to make the Blender Defender: $214. Video of ambushed cat: priceless.

The long-handler grabber gizmo was actually designed for getting things down from high shelves; however, I recently discovered it works wonders to deter Rocky from jumping on my counter while I’m preparing food. The pinching motion freaks him out, so now I keep it handy whenever I have food on the counter. If he even glances up at the counter, I “pretend” grab at him and he runs out of the kitchen.

The Tattle Tale is a motion sensor machine that sounds a loud alarm whenever it detects the vibration of a cat jumping onto the counter. I haven’t actually tried this but it sounds promising, and might be worth getting. It sells for $24.99.

Remember, you may have to try several methods to find one that works for you. But with patience and training, you should be able to keep your cat off the kitchen counter.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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How to Teach Your Cat to Perform Tricks


By Julia Williams

In yesterday’s post I explained that, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to train your cat to do tricks. Yes, you really can teach your cat to sit, shake, give you a “high five,” and fetch on command. You can even train your cat to use a regular bathroom toilet, although I’m not sure this qualifies as a “trick.”

I’m not saying it won’t take a lot of patience and determination to train your cat – it definitely will, and anyone who’s familiar with the independent nature of cats knows why. Then again, if it was too easy the thrill of victory wouldn’t be half as sweet! But let’s move on to the “how.”

One of the keys to success in training a cat to perform tricks is understanding what motivates them. Cats typically don’t possess a strong desire to please, unless there is something in it for them. For most felines, a food reward is highly motivating, so stock up on cat treats if you want to try teaching your cat to do tricks.

For the greatest chance of success, use the cat treats they find most enticing. My normally docile housecats turn into ferocious jungle beasts when given a piece of cooked chicken or turkey, but any cat treat your kitty loves will work. If you let them “free feed” dry food, consider switching to two feedings a day and remove the 24-hour kibble buffet. Then, you can try training your cat to do tricks before their scheduled meal time, which makes the food reward even more motivational.

Another important aspect of the trick training is that you have to coax the cat to do what you want it to do, such as “sit” or “shake.” When they do, say the command loudly and clearly, and immediately give them their food reward. You can also praise them lavishly and pet them, although this is not nearly as effective as the cat treat.

If you don’t succeed in training your cat to do tricks after a few days (and it’s almost a given that you won’t), don’t get discouraged. Remember the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The same applies to teaching a cat to do tricks. Simply keep trying. Trust me, it can be done.

How to teach your cat to sit

Step One: call your cat over to you, luring them with the treats if needed.
Step Two: when your cat approaches and stands before you, say “Sit.”
Step Three: put light pressure on their rump to naturally induce the sit position.
Step Four: when the cat sits, give them the treat immediately.
Step Five: repeat steps one through four as often as necessary to get your cat to sit on command.

After you’ve mastered the “sit” command, you can move on to the next trick.

How to teach your cat to shake

Step One: get your cat to sit, and reward them with a treat
Step Two: put your hand behind their right front leg and touch their paw.
Step Three: say “Shake.” A cat will often lift its foot when you touch it. If they do, take their paw in your hand and give it a gentle shake.
Step Four: Immediately give them a treat and a pet.
Step Five: repeat as needed.

The process of training your cat to use a toilet is a bit more complicated. Difficult but not impossible, as evidenced by the photo of Panther above, photographed by Robert Ward. According to Robert, Panther has been using the toilet to do his business since he was six months old. If you’d like to train your cat to use the toilet, you might want to get a copy of Trisha Yeager Menke’s humorous book, Potty Talk by Toast, which is available on Amazon.com.

I hope you find these tips for training your cat useful. Let me know if you succeed!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Can You Train a Cat to Do Tricks?


By Julia Williams

The short answer to the question is yes, you can. But (and this is a BIG but) it won’t be easy. If you want to teach your cat to do tricks, then you must have a wealth of four things: patience, determination, time, and cat treats.

Although many people believe it’s impossible to train a cat to perform on command, this simply isn’t true. I have not done it myself, largely because patience is not one of my virtues. I have, however, watched my friend train his cat, and have seen the cat perform a few different tricks. I’ve also seen countless other performing cats. For instance, at a cat show I watched in awe as a whole troupe of cats put on a mesmerizing performance of circus-type acts for more than fifteen minutes. The level of training and the complexity of the tricks were remarkable, particularly since it wasn’t just one or two cats performing the tricks, but dozens of them.

There are also many amazing videos on YouTube about the Moscow Cats Theatre, a famous, long-running show that features agile felines walking a tightrope, rolling on top of a ball, jumping through hoops, twirling batons with their feet, doing handstands and other impressive feats. And on Animal Planet’s Pet Star television show, I’ve seen a few people who were able to get their cats to do tricks. They had to dole out cat treats every step of the way, but still.

And finally, the very funny movie Meet the Parents featured a toilet-trained cat named Jinxy who nearly upstaged his co-stars (Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller) with his flawless performance on the loo. I’ve also watched other videos on the internet of ordinary housecats (i.e., not film star felines) that were trained to use the toilet – although apparently you can’t teach them to flush, which would certainly make this “trick” more appealing.

So if you really can train a cat to perform tricks, why is it far more common to see dogs doing them? It’s because dogs are far easier to train than cats, and many people simply don’t have the patience it takes to get cats to do tricks on command. Contrary to what some people believe, this has nothing to do with intelligence. Dogs by nature are much more eager to please their owners, who they regard as the pack leader. Although cats might love their human companions very much, their independent nature means that this leadership role doesn’t have much power. Cats have no masters, and they tend to listen to humans on their own terms.

If you’re intrigued by the thought of training your cat to do tricks, and think you have the perseverance and patience to succeed, I’ll give you some tips and step-by-step directions in tomorrow’s post.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

How to Train Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post

I share my home with three felines, and am continually reminded of the old saying, “Patience is a virtue.” Don’t get me wrong – I adore my cats and love having them in my home. But cats are stubborn creatures that can test the patience of a saint. My cat Rocky decided early on that my wall-to-wall carpet was his own personal, giant-sized scratching post. As you can imagine, that didn’t work for me, and I made it my personal mission to put an end to his carpet scratching ways.
To successfully train your cat to use a scratching post in lieu of your carpet or furniture, you need to first understand why they scratch. Most people believe a cat scratches to sharpen its claws, which is true in that scratching removes the outer portion of the claw to reveal a sharp new tip. But cats also scratch to claim territory and mark their turf, both with visible signs of claw marks and the scent glands on their paws. They also scratch for exercise and stress relief, like a feline version of Yoga or Pilates. Lastly, cats scratch because it’s a natural behavior that feels good.
As you can see, there’s no point in trying to get your cat to stop scratching, because it won’t. Instead, you can re-direct its impulse to scratch to a more appropriate place, aka, the cat scratching post or scratching pad. Nowadays, there’s a large variety of scratching post materials and styles available, from carpet to sisal to corrugated card board. The most important thing you should know is that you might need to try several different kinds before you find the scratching surface your cat prefers.
Also keep in mind that some cats favor vertical scratching surfaces, some prefer horizontal surfaces, and some will use either. My own battle with Rocky’s inappropriate scratching was prolonged because I tried to force him to become a vertical scratcher. Secondly, I thought that getting a carpeted scratching post would discourage him from scratching my carpet. After much trial and error, I realized I was wrong on both counts. He now uses his carpeted scratching post, but only because I turned it sideways so he could scratch horizontally.
There are several tricks you can use when training your cat to use a scratching post. First, resist the urge to put the post in a little-used corner of your home. Your cat wants to mark his territory where he spends most of his time, which isn’t (usually) the bedroom closet or the laundry room. You can gradually move the scratching post to a less visible location once it’s been accepted by your cat as his territory. Ideally, you should set up posts in several different locations, so that when the urge to scratch strikes, there is one handy.
Encourage your cat to check out the scratching post by offering him treats near it. Hold the treat up near the post or put it on the post so that your cat’s paws touch the surface of the post to get the treat. Toys that dangle from a string are another great way to train your cat to use a scratching post. Play with your cat near the post and move the toy around the post so that when it tries to get its toy, it invariably climbs up the post. If your feline loves catnip, sprinkle some liberally all over the surface of the post and it will go bonkers rubbing it, kneading it and eventually, scratching it.
Training your cat to use a scratching post takes time, patience and perseverance. Keep in mind that cats are creatures of habit. Use that to your advantage by taking them over to their post when you get up in the morning, and whenever you come home from being away. I did that consistently for several months, and now all my cats run to their scratching posts at those times, usually without my urging. Yes, even my notorious carpet scratcher uses his post multiple times every day – which is something of a minor miracle!

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.