Shredded curtains, knocked over photo frames, and dirt from potted plants all over the floors. What do these things have in common? When putting together, they usually mean one of two things – that there’s a toddler in the house, or there’s a cat in the house. While it’s easy enough to teach a toddler not to do these things, it’s not as easy teaching a cat not to do these things. Luckily there are ways to teach your cat to stop these behaviors (and more), with one of the best ways being aversive training. Here we’ll take a look at the basics of aversive training your cat.
Aversive training your cat involves using textures, odors, tastes, and sounds that are unpleasant to your cat, to train him or her away from undesired behavior. This method of training when used in a way where the cat associates them with the area he or she is misbehaving – and not with you. This method is also called remote control and corrects your cats’ behavior without having him or her associate the training with you. An example of this is smearing something that tastes bad on electrical cords teaches cats not to chew on them and without having the cat associate the training with you. To use this training method, please review the five tips for aversive training for your cat.
Have Your Tools Ready
Flexibility and creativity are necessary when aversive training your cat, so have these tools on hand but do not be afraid to try other ideas too. Prepare by gathering things with unpleasant textures (duct tape, plastic carpet runners, hard rocks), unpleasant tastes and smells (hot sauce, cologne), loud noises (whistles, can of marbles), and elements of surprise (water bottles, canned air).
Actively Using Your Tools
When you are home and can watch your cat’s behavior, you must be ready to surprise your cat with aversive methods. When you see your cat getting ready to jump on the counter you must interrupt her by tossing a can of pennies on the floor behind her. This will surprise her, interrupt the behavior, and make her associate jumping on the counter with loud, unpleasant noises.
Passively Using Your Tools
You cannot always be home to watch what your cat is doing, so during these times you will have to plan how to your tools. Aversive training your cat while away involves planting your tools in the places where your cat gets into trouble. For example, if you do not allow your cat on the coffee table, put a plastic carpet runner (rough side up) on the table. He will associate getting on the coffee table with getting his paws poked, and will stop doing it.
Timing and Surprise
When you are home and actively training your cat, take a moment, and pay attention to your timing. Use your tools right before your cat does something naughty, not afterward, or she will not associate the unpleasant stimulus with the behavior. For example, do not bother tossing the can of pennies after she has jumped on the counter – it will not do any good. Also, when addressing bad behavior with aversive tactics do not let your cat catch you in the act. You want her surprised, and to think the unpleasant noise (or whatever) came from the table (counter, chair, etc.), and not you.
Prevent Bad Behavior
Scratching, jumping, and digging are perfectly normal behaviors for cats. Therefore, a key part of aversive training your cat is prevention. You can do this by providing outlets for your cat’s natural behaviors with scratching posts for scratching, cat trees for climbing, and toys for batting around. By combining training and prevention, you’ll be able to train your cat away from his or her unwanted behaviors.