There are two types of “new” cat owners. The first will appreciate that they are in effect bringing into their home a strange animal, whose nature they do not fully understand. This group might do a little research beforehand, and buy or borrow a cat care and training guide. The second group may just assume that the new cat or kitten will very quickly pick up and obey the house rules, and it is this group who are more likely to get angry and frustrated, and maybe resort to smacking or shaking the cat.
For a start, any physical punishment is self-defeating – the cat will simply learn to fear you, and make any further training even more difficult. A very effective alternative to physical punishment is to keep a spray bottle of water handy – if she misbehaves, a little spray will let her know you are not pleased.
The surest key to success with your cat house training is to try to understand how your cat thinks, why she does the things she does, what motivates her. If you expect her to do something that goes against her nature, then you better be prepared to make it worth her while. If you want to make the most rapid progress, a modest investment in a decent cat manual or guide will be richly rewarded, and you will at a stroke begin to understand “cat think” and cat care in general, and also avoid the most common mistakes.
You will find that the most rewarding approach is to encourage good behavior, either by kind words combined with gentle stroking, or some food treat. The cat will quickly learn what she has to do to earn that “reward”, and if the reward is not forthcoming, she will assimilate the knowledge that she has broken some rule.
Cats are known for their short attention span, so your training sessions should be fairly brief, ideally around 10 minutes. You want to eliminate any distractions during these short sessions, so you maximise the chances of gaining the undivided attention of the cat. The perfect location is a small indoors room, with no view outside, and no disturbances.
The essential training exercises that concern most new cat owners are to do with urination, scratching, jumping and biting.
No cat will easily take to using a litter box – it is contrary to their nature – so it is essential that you are very determined and consistent in rewarding the cat when he performs properly.
The second biggest concern is with cat scratching, a behavior that is an essential part of the animal’s nature. The provision of good scratching posts in strategic places will alleviate the problem, and spare your furniture and curtains. The surgical removal of the cat’s claws was until recently seen as an easy and permanent solution to the problem, but in a more humane age this is seen as quite a barbaric act to perform on a Cat, and one that upsets the whole balance mechanism of the cat, and is really traumatic.
A cat will not expend unnecessary energy, so if she jumps there is a reason for it. Most often, she will jump onto the window sill to view the outside world – if you want her not to jump on a particular sill, block off the view for the first 15 inches, perhaps with a piece of fabric. If there is no view, she will soon go elsewhere. Jumping onto counters or worktops or tables in the kitchen should be completely discouraged from the beginning – it might simply signal that she wants feeding.
Biting is unfortunately often encouraged in a kitchen – children in particular enjoy being bitten by young kitten teeth, and will often playfully provoke it until it bites. But that “trains” the cat that biting is acceptable, so it should be avoided. If the behavior persists, you might discourage it with a spray from your water bottle.