A few years in the past, I wrote about why it’s happiness, not obedience, that counts for pet canines. However what about pet cats? Cats’ happiness issues too, in fact.
There are a lot of various things we will do to make cats happier. Right here I’m going to give attention to two issues which are straightforward for everybody. The primary is geared toward lowering stress, whereas the second includes discovering issues your cat likes to do.
1. Don’t punish your cat.
Nobody expects cats to be obedient, however they’re nonetheless typically topic to harsh coaching strategies. Some folks, sadly, use aversive methods like squirts of water or the noise from shaking a can of pennies to attempt to cease cats from doing issues. These work as a result of they’re disagreeable for the cat and frighten them.
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In a manner, it’s a little bit of a shock that folks use aversive strategies with cats, as a result of it’s comparatively frequent to listen to stereotypes and idioms that indicate cats can’t be skilled. For instance, when folks complain in regards to the difficulties of herding cats or mistakenly blame cats’ behaviour on spite or hate.
However we do have expectations of cats’ behaviour. And someplace on this use of punishment is a false impression. It’s as if folks suppose that solely aversive strategies will work to alter behaviour, when actually cats can be taught by optimistic reinforcement too.
Simply as using aversive strategies has dangers for canines, like the danger of constructing them fearful, anxious, or harassed, they’ve the identical dangers for cats. In flip, this will trigger extra behaviour points. And since your cat could affiliate the punishment with you, as an alternative of with no matter they had been doing, it could possibly have an effect on their relationship with you too.
It’s necessary to study cat behaviour and supply cats with what they want. For instance, typically folks punish their cat for scratching in a spot the particular person doesn’t like, such because the couch. However scratching is a standard behaviour for cats, in order that they should scratch someplace. Amongst different issues, scratching helps to maintain their claws in good situation. This implies we’ve to offer scratching posts that the cat will like to make use of, which usually means one thing good and tall and durable. Some cats additionally like a horizontal floor to scratch. And we will use optimistic reinforcement to encourage them to make use of that submit extra. Merely give them a deal with instantly after they’ve used their scratching submit.
By the way, in case your cat is aged, and particularly if they’re indoors-only, a scratching submit is just not sufficient to take care of their claws: you could must trim their claws, too (or ask your vet clinic to do it for you).
2. Present extra enrichment to your cat.
Whereas stopping using punishment is about lowering stress, it’s additionally necessary to consider offering optimistic issues to your cat to do. That is the place enrichment is available in. Enrichment means making modifications to enhance the surroundings and provides an animal (on this case, your cat) extra alternatives to interact in species-specific behaviours which are fascinating and stimulating and enjoyable for them. This will help to cease your cat from getting bored and is particularly necessary in case your cat is indoors solely.
There are a lot of alternative ways to offer enrichment to your cat, together with making extra time for play with a wand toy, making extra toys accessible for particular person play, giving your cat extra entry to excessive up locations, offering hiding locations like cardboard containers and tunnels, giving them extra cat beds or an improve for his or her current beds, letting them have some paper to shred, enhancing the view from a favorite window, and so forth.
All the time give your cat a selection of whether or not or to not work together with the enrichment. Some cats, particularly if they’re shy, might have a little bit of time to get used to a change of their surroundings, so allow them to strategy in their very own time. And in the event you discover one thing new that they like, whether or not it’s a brand new spot on high of a bookshelf the place they will perch or some additional time with you, stick with it!
There are many methods you can also make your cat even happier. The guidelines on the finish of my e-book, Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Joyful, is an effective place to start out. It’s also possible to decide issues that you recognize your cat likes to do and make extra time for them, whether or not it’s sitting in your lap on the sofa or chasing the wand toy round.
If there are behaviour points, don’t use punishment; search assist sooner moderately than later, and if it’s a sudden change in behaviour all the time see your vet in case of a medical trigger. If there are issues that make your cat fearful or anxious, discover methods to cope with these too, similar to coaching your cat to go within the cat service.
Having a cheerful cat means being tuned in to their particular person persona and their wants. After we present cats with what they want, it means they’ll have good welfare, they are going to be much less more likely to have behaviour points, and extra more likely to have relationship with us. And though folks don’t take into consideration obedience for cats, we will consider coaching them with optimistic reinforcement, and we must always take into consideration their happiness too. In spite of everything, I feel all cat lovers desire a blissful cat.