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Do you have a cat that is: Ignoring the litter box and instead peeing and pooping on the floor, your bed, your bathtub, or anywhere else they shouldn’t be? Biting you, your children or your guests unexpectedly? How about scratching your couch, bed, and other furniture? Maybe digging in houseplants, fighting with other cats in your household, keeping you awake at night… just plain misbehaving?
In order to effectively train your cat, you must understand the way cats think–and what drives their actions. Cats and dogs do not think alike, and trying to use the same training methods on a cat that you would use on a dog will only backfire and cause more behavior problems. Cats have completely different instincts and react differently to situations than dogs do. Yelling or physically punishing a cat will only make them fear you, rather than solve behavior problems.
However, there is one learning method cats, dogs, and even people do have in common–and that is classical conditioning. In other words, they learn to associate certain behaviors with certain outcomes. Cats learn that certain activities result in positive rewards, so they continue to do them over and over again. Other actions cause negative outcomes, so they avoid them. So, what is the difference between this and simply punishing your cat? Won’t yelling at your cat when they do something wrong make them associate the behavior with a negative outcome?
It might, but wouldn’t it better if your cat associated their bad behavior with the negative consequence, rather than associating the negative consequence with you? In other words, wouldn’t you rather they learn that scratching the couch causes an unpleasant consequence, instead of them fearing you and only scratching the couch when you are not around?
This is one of the most important things for you to understand when it comes to teaching your cat to do what you want–and for stopping unwanted behaviors. There are many ways to train your cat and end bad cat behavior without ever having to touch them.