We all know that dogs can be trained quite well; they can be trained to sit, to heel, to roll over, to walk off the lead and to do all sorts of tricks. You can also train them out of certain types of behaviour – stopping them from barking at the postman, attacking other dogs, pulling excessively when being walked on the lead, jumping up at guests and so on.
But what about cats? I don’t know of many agility centres for cats, kitten training classes or celebrity cat trainers. But from my own personal experience I think it is possible to train certain behaviour traits, in a limited way at least.
One funny story that I recall from my childhood was with one of my first cats who was called Pickle. He loved food and when I’d be eating something like a packet of crisps, he would jump on my lap and try to paw at the food while I was putting it in my mouth!
However, despite this, my mother was able to train him into exhibiting enormous restraint at his feeding times.
We lived in a small home where we had a kitchen diner that wasn’t exactly one room but it was open plan. It was all in one room but the flooring was separate. The kitchen had a vinyl flooring and the dining room was carpeted and separating the two was a plastic strip.
When it was feeding time for Pickle, my mother would prepare his food but wouldn’t let him in the kitchen. He’d try to come in and want to rub himself up against her legs which is very common for cats to do, but she’d shout at him saying “Out of my kitchen!” and point towards the dining room!
Sure enough, over time he started to understand that he wasn’t going to get fed until he complied. Eventually she trained him to sit in the dining room and he’d have his front paws position just behind the plastic strip separating the two rooms.
He’d stay there perfectly motionless waiting for the signal from my mother that he was allowed to come in and eat his food. She would make him wait whilst she prepared it and put it down on the floor. She’d look at him and when she saw that he was sitting nicely, she’d pause a moment then say “Come on then!” and he’d run in, making a beeline for the food bowl!
Is this normal to be able to train a cat in this way? I don’t know. I’ve tried it myself with my own cats and tried to use my mother’s technique but it has never worked for me. Maybe she had a special gift, or maybe Pickle was just a special cat!