Why is it important to be flexible in training my cat?

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The primary reason to be flexible in attempting to train your cat is the simple fact that he’s in charge and you’re not. Many people will go so far as to say a cat cannot be trained, but that’s not true. Any cat person who gets a feline to exhibit specific behaviors on cue does so from a point of understanding how a cat learns.

Cats are solitary predators in the wild. They exist in a sensory world where their powers of observation allow them not just to survive, but thrive. Body language is a cat’s primary means of communicating with his own kind, and his keen curiosity paired with exceptional powers of seeing, smelling, and hearing make him appear to have super sleuthing abilities.

Dogs on the other hand, while certainly gifted with their own repertoire of exceptional skills, are social pack animals. The desire to please the pack leader and to be subservient to him are canine instincts encoded in their DNA. Thus, a dog will ultimately perform a trick on command even in the absence of a reward. Not a cat. As soon as the feline is no longer benefiting from the “trick,” game over.

For these reasons, the most successful tricks come from observing what naturally catches a cat’s attention and catering to the individual animal’s tendencies. Most tricks began as natural behaviors that were encouraged to grow patient reinforcement and even suggestion. A cat is so curious by nature that if you exhibit curiosity in what he’s doing he’ll want to know why and get even more interested.

Timing is also crucial. Cats do everything by their own schedule. You have to be flexible enough to work with the cat when the cat is exhibiting elements of the behavior you want to see develop, not the other way around. Bottom line, in so much as a cat is trainable it’s always on his terms, not yours.

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