Training your cat: four golden rules

Easy ways to get your cat doing the things you want – like using the litter box – and not doing the things you don’t, like scratching your sofa to shreds

Cats respond to training very differently to dogs: the best way to train your cat is to make sure that whatever you want to teach her is extremely rewarding and pleasurable.

Many cat owners unintentionally reward their cats for bad behaviour. Take the early morning pouncing habit for example. What do some cat owners do when their cat jumps on the bed at five in the morning? They get up, feed her, play with her or let her outside. So without knowing it, they have trained their cat to wake them up.

Another classic example is punishing cats after they’ve had a mishap on the carpet. A lot of owners grab the cat, point out the wet spot and put her in the litter box. This only reinforces the idea that being reached for is a bad experience and that the litter box is a chamber of horrors.

Whether you want to stop cat behavioural problems before they start or train your feline friend to change her ways, the principles are the same.

Avoid reprimands and punishments

Cats react badly to punishment. They don’t understand it, and tend to become frightened of the owner. Try to make your relationship fun, rewarding and playful instead. Sometimes this change alone will do wonders to your cat’s behaviour.

Make time for playtime

Cats can easily become overly active and destructive when they’re bored. And if they suddenly become destructive, it could be a sign that they feel neglected. To set things straight again, simply make time for regular play sessions and relaxing massages to calm your cat down.

Make bad behaviour a bad experience

Furniture scratching is one of the biggest cat habits to tackle. It’s important to make your cat’s scratching post rewarding, but you also need to change your furniture into an unattractive clawing item. One way of doing this is to temporarily cover your cat’s favourite scratching site with silver foil, netting or loosely woven fabric – cats don’t like the noise the foil makes and don’t like snagging their claws.

If your cat shows no interest in their brand-new scratching post, it’s up to you to make it as attractive as possible. Lure her in by scattering bits of food on the platforms, let toys dangle down or rub the post down with catnip.

Praise, praise and praise some more

Remember your cat learns best through rewards, praise and positive reinforcement.

More advice

Trying to train a new kitten to get on with an existing cat or dog? Don’t miss our tips on how to avoid pet hates.

We’ve also got lots of tips on feeding.

Have you got any advice on training a cat? Please use the comments section below.