Never Force Your Cat When Training

 

Over the past few months I’ve had a number of new clients contact me for intercat aggression problems due to having followed some very bad advice. They had received advice stating that the way to help a new cat bond with the current resident cats is to brush all the cats with the same brush. Some people were even rubbing the cats with one towel. In other words, they were forcing the cats to have to endure the new cat’s scent. To help everyone better understand how group scent works I even wrote an article about it because clients were asking for accurate information. Still though, the counter-productive information put out there is very disturbing to me because in all aspects of cat behavior the key is to reduce stress – not increase it. When you force a scent on a cat by putting it on his fur, he can’t escape from it. The only way to get rid of it is for the cat to engage in self-grooming behavior. Forcing the scent this way denies the cat the option of having a choice about whether to engage. New cat introductions should be done slowly and positively. I always tell my clients to move at the pace of the most stressed-out cat. The secret is to make the experience positive and to always offer choice. That’s why I use my scented sock technique where I put the scent of the new cat on a clean sock and leave it in the resident cat’s territory. I take the mate to the sock and rub the resident cat in order to leave that scent in the newcomer’s area. This way, the cats can choose how close they want to get to the scents. If a cat advances toward the sock I offer treat rewards. When cats feel they have control over the situation, it keeps a lid on the stress response. In a friendly multicat environment you will find cats engaging in allogrooming but not in a tense situation where there is an unfamiliar cat who has entered the territory. Forcing an unfamiliar cat’s scent on another cat is a recipe for disaster.

Also Read:   Why Does My Cat Need a Puzzle Feeder?

Don’t Back Your Cat in a Corner

I prefer the method of “choice” when asking a cat to do anything because of the ability to minimize stress and give the cat more control in the situation. Take carrier training for example. If you don’t train your cat to accept going into the carrier in a stress-free way, then every time you take the carrier out, the cat will probably run and hide. You will then have to drag him out from under the bed and stuff him in the carrier. This method is stressful for everyone concerned and it often ends up with somebody getting scratched or bitten… and that somebody will most likely be you. Instead, I leave the carrier out all of the time. I also leave treats nearby and inside it. I give the cat the choice when it comes to approaching the carrier, eating the treats or even going inside.  If the cat starts going in the carrier comfortably, I gradually work up to being able to close the door briefly. With my cat, Pearl, she actually has learned to go into the carrier on verbal cue because she doesn’t connect the carrier with force and fear. I used clicker training with her to help her see the benefits of making one choice over the other.

 

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