Cat 101
September 28, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

(Cat training) What are some useful or interesting things to teach cats while they are kittens?

(Beyond the basics, like using the litter box, not to mind getting their claws trimmed, come-sit-lie down, leash walking, fetch, etc.)
posted by coffeefilter to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I spent a lot of time taking my kitten on car rides and meeting new people, so now she doesn't freak out on car trips (unless its to the vet) and is fairly social with guests. I also used clicker training to train my other cat to come when called (it works about 75% of the time, which is good for a cat, I'd think)

My cats do like the leash but I've yet to figure out how to get them to do anything but wander exactly where they want to go on it. Make sure its a full harness they can't slip out of instead of the little twisty ones. My dad lost a cat that way when she wriggled out.

You might want to let them get used to having their ears handled. My boy has gunky ears I have to clean out every once and a while (no q tips in ear canals, just tissue in the outer ear) and it would be hard if he was as skittish about his ears as my other cat is.

If you want to get really crazy, you can toilet train them. You tube has tons of clips.
posted by gilsonal at 10:27 AM on September 28, 2010

Cat will turn out how you treat the kitten, more or less. So if you want a snuggle bunny, while they're small and more likely to put up with your stupid human crap, teach them when you want them to snuggle. I accidentally went with "Let's watch TV!!" in an excited voice and also "Come see mommy!"

Yes, judge me, whatever. But these are things that he responds to, so the moral is both: you can do this, generally, and also, choose wisely. I realize I could probably say "Let's eat bananas!" in the same voice and it would work, but you train yourself along the way.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:28 AM on September 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't consider leash walking a basic for a cat. Nor fetch.

The biggies are:

- Use a litter tray
- Use a scratching post, and only a scratching post (this should sort out claw trimming bit)
- Like being picked up
- Not flee from strangers in your house / kids
- Like cuddles
- Not thinking of a car as being purgatory or just a visit to the vet
- Tolerate being groomed (long haired cats especially)
- Tolerate being given pills/eye drops (training with a placebo would be counterproductive - it's on an if needed basis)

- Come home/inside on a whistle (which is important for me, who let's my mog outside)
posted by MuffinMan at 10:29 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I never feed cats first thing in the morning, so they never associate waking me up with food.

Also don't allow them in the kitchen; they're fed outside in the hallway. (Cat underfoot + cook with boiling water = disaster.)

I start "clap training" them early ... if they're somewhere I don't want them to be (like the kitchen) I clap at them (and sometimes hiss). Same thing if they're out on the balcony and it's time to go in, a few sharp claps.
posted by cyndigo at 10:31 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Be patient with kittens -- like puppies, their attention span is short. Use positive reinforcement only -- i.e., when they move toward your desired behavior, they get rewarded. Then put it on cue with intermittent rewards. (There are excellent youtube videos on clicker training, including for cats.)

My favorite commands for my cats: "Sit," "Quiet," "Here"/"Come," "Down" and "Crate." The last is the toughest, as going in the crate often means heading for the vet. (Ergo I don't ask my cat to do anything like crate to go to the vet. I pick each up and put it in the crate.) But you can teach all of them. All my cats know all these commands and reliably obey them.
posted by bearwife at 10:32 AM on September 28, 2010

We don't free-feed, so we give the cat a small amount of kibble every time we come in the door. (You can figure out the right number of calories to give in a day, and be sure you're sticking within that.) This way he doesn't try to bolt out the door - he knows there is good stuff in the kitchen when the door opens.

It's good if you can train them to get used to having their teeth brushed. video on how to train your cat to have its teeth brushed

Be careful what you train him to see as a toy. Think about how he will generalize what's fair game and what's off limits. Eg, with ours, crumpled paper ball is a toy = all paper things are fair game to chew and shred.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:46 AM on September 28, 2010

have lots of people over for them to meet for socialization and touch them everywhere with firm gentle affection, for which they will not only be more cuddly but also easier to groom and care for. have fun!
posted by supermedusa at 10:46 AM on September 28, 2010

Trim their claws. Getting them used to it as a kitten will save you a lot of agony (literally) in the future. Ditto brushing their teeth, if your vet recommends it.
posted by killy willy at 10:50 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I start "clap training" them early ... if they're somewhere I don't want them to be (like the kitchen) I clap at them (and sometimes hiss). Same thing if they're out on the balcony and it's time to go in, a few sharp claps.

I think this is key. I don't use a "clap" as the sound, but the noise "PSSST!"

I know people that use the word "No!" also, but I think that it is easier to use a sound that is similar to a natural cat-noise, and that won't get confused with sounds that are made regularly. Also, it's good to have a cue that does not require the use of hands.

My "PSSST!"-training has effectively prevented having to use things like feli-way or water bottles to prevent them from doing bad things like scratching on furniture or crawling on kitchen counters.

Also, it is good to teach them their names. It is easy to start calling the cat "kitty," but it is very endearing for your cat to respond to its name.

(Actually, I also taught my cats the verbal cue of "disappointment" by saying their names in a long, drawn-out disappointing way, like my Mom used to do to me. It works on things that are not so bad to be "PSSST!"-worthy, and usually results in cats talking back to me, as if they are trying to reason my disappointment away.)

My cats have very guilty consciences.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:00 AM on September 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

+1 on teeth brushing and general mouth touching (without biting). Our kitty purrs when we brush his teeth, and it's great. Our prior cat (who we got as an adult) wouldn't even let people look at his teeth, let alone brush them, and he ended up having some dental issues that were a pain to deal with (compounded by his refusal to let anyone look in his mouth). Another cat in the family just had to have several teeth removed too. If you start them on brushing young, it's easy, and totally worth it.
posted by sharding at 11:19 AM on September 28, 2010

I taught my kitty to sit. First, I found a treat that she really liked, which handily happened to be one that the vet recommended for cleaning her teeth. Then, I would only give it to her when she was sitting, saying "[name], sit." (Giving her backside a little downward push didn't work as well as it did in the dog context, so I gave up on that.) After a few times, she figured out that it was treat time when she heard the bag open, and would come up and as soon as I said "[name], sit," she would sit. It also sometimes works without the treat. I don't claim this is interesting, but if your experience is like mine, it may net you free drinks if people insist that it's impossible and wager you a beverage of your choice.
posted by *s at 11:40 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I got my Jack used to :
*being put in his 'bedroom' for the night to sleep. Now if I need him out of the way (if we have a big party, or there's repairmen coming to the house) he goes into his room and doesn't complain, since it's his 'den'.
*Taking baths
*Having his nails trimmed.
*Riding in the car and going to stay with my Mom when we're out of town. (He actually likes 'going to Grandma's house')
*His name
*To scratch only on his scratching post. He occasionally goes after the rug, but the sofa is unscathed.

He will pretty much put up with anything if he knows there will be treats later.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:04 PM on September 28, 2010

- Come home/inside on a whistle (which is important for me, who let's my mog outside)

This is the most useful thing I've found (although I don't use a whistle.) I make a loud kissing sound every time I'm about to feed the cats. On the rare occasions one gets outside, all I need to do it make the sound and they come running -- if they're hungry, that is.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:00 PM on September 28, 2010

Definitely get them used to being picked up and put into a carrier, and to have strangers examine them. I got my older cat when she was already a year old and had gotten firmly established in the habits of "picking up = BAD" and "being at the vet = WORSE". So she has to be sedated if they're doing anything more than just giving her a quick look-see. (and the vets never seem to quite believe she's as sweet at home as I say she is, after the absolute hellcat she turns into at the vets!)
posted by telophase at 1:20 PM on September 28, 2010

I trained my kittens to i) never use claws or teeth on humans, no matter what the provocation; and ii) never play with wires. They know their names and will come when called (assuming they're not doing important kitty stuff). They have never tasted human food so they never beg when we eat. They never scratch furniture because they have several awesome sisal scratching posts and trees that are much more satisfying.

Things I wish I'd also done: i) handled their paws more -- it's hell to trim their claws; ii) got them used to car journeys; and iii) put them on a leash.
posted by phliar at 3:02 PM on September 28, 2010

Useful - I got nuthin'

But interesting? I taught the One Cat Demolition Machine to jump five feet off the floor to take a piece of dried shrimp from my fingertips without scratching me. Much. She is a small, bad-tempered cat, and the display was impressive when she was still young enough (she's 16 now) to get up that high.

With her assistance, we trained ourselves to turn the water on in the bathtub whenever she wanted to drink, to remember never to leave cups or glasses of liquid anywhere at all, and to open, at her demand, any door she was on the other side of.

Hope that helps.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:13 PM on September 28, 2010

When I took in two kittens some years ago I got them used to the vacuum cleaner by carrying them around with me as I vacuumed. This was from when they were really young, 8 weeks or so. My current cats, who I adopted when they were adult, race to see who can get through the cat flap first as soon as the Dyson appears.
posted by essexjan at 5:17 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I trained my cats to run and look out the window when there's something interesting outside (bird, squirrel, etc). It was really simple. Whenever I saw something I knew would catch their interest, I'd pick them up one at a time while making the "hey look out the window" signal, and I'd carry them over to the window where they'd quickly spot the wildlife. It only took a few repetitions before the signal alone would work to send them running to the window.

I only did this for one window. I guess advanced training would be developing different signals for different windows.
posted by Orinda at 6:03 PM on September 28, 2010

Uh-oh: my cats are never going to get work in this new skills-based economy. They've embraced the entitled trust-fund ethic instead. (hangs head in shame)
posted by sfkiddo at 8:30 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

"No" is the most useful thing I've taught my cat. (Though she understands some silly other phrases as well, along the lines of what Medieval Maven mentioned...)
posted by easternblot at 1:36 AM on September 29, 2010

« Older Nobody's perfect, right?   |   Help me find a short story about aliens meeting... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.