One of the first things people ask me when I’m conducting a behavior consultation is, “How long is it going to take before I see results?”
My answer is always the same: Expect it to take some time.
It’s not realistic to expect immediate results and perfect behavior after just a day or two of altering your approach to the situation, although sometimes that does happen. It’s important to realize this upfront so you don’t get impatient when you’ve been doing everything right, yet a week has gone by and the action has not been completely corrected. It’s very easy to decide that the cat won’t learn and must be taken to a shelter when you are already frustrated by inappropriate urination, aggression, furniture scratching, or some other such action that you wish the cat would stop doing.
The fact is, cats are very smart and very capable of learning exactly what you want them to do, and what you don’t want them to do. Altering a cat’s behavior to discourage those unwanted actions and teach them new appropriate ones (Note: I never use the word “train”) is something that does take patience and dedication to accomplish.
Cats learn most effectively using the following techniques:
- Rewards: Cats are very food motivated creatures, and the use of treats is a popular way to reward a cat for doing a desired action. Praise is also a form of reward for cats, but back that praise up with goodies to make it super effective.
- Repetition: It’s very important to repeat an “action and reward” scenario many times over in order for the associations to lock into your kitty’s mind.
- Consistency: Just like with children, a cat will quickly decide that you aren’t serious about something if you don’t act with consistency. Let them know what actions are not appropriate, as well as which ones are. Discourage those unwanted ones by offering alternative acceptable behaviors, and reward those alternative behaviors immediately when they are displayed. Do it every time and without fail.
Your kitty wants to please you, and will fall all over himself trying to do just that once he knows what you want and expect. A happy and loving relationship with your cat can be achieved with time, patience, and consistency. You really CAN have a long life together, and live happily ever after.
Rita has created the L.U.C.K.Y. C.A.T. Approach to Feline Behavior that is based on these principles: Love, Understanding, Communication, Kindness and YOU being Consistent with the Attention and Time you give to your cat. You can learn more about Rita’s method by visiting Lucky Cat Approach.