How to Tame the Tiger in Your House
There’s a tiger lurking in every tabby. Just look at the way kitty stalks and ambushes your feet. Those hunting instincts are as strong as his ancestors’ who roamed northern Africa nearly 5,000 years ago. Actually, cats haven’t changed much during the time that they have been living with man; they are essentially the same in mind and body as their wild ancestors
Cats as solitary predators have depended solely on their own hunting abilities and have had no need for group living. The idea of being corrected or dominated by another individual is foreign to them. Any attempt to punish a cat is counterproductive as it only confuses and frightens the animals. Rather than associating the punishment with the crime, the cat associates the punishment with the owner. This approach to training may damage the cat’s temperament and ruin its relationship with the owner. It also may result in the cat learning owner-absent behavior. Since the corrections only occur in the owner’s presence, the cat feels free to engage in the forbidden behaviors when the owner is asleep or a work.
As in dog training, praise and food treats are important to reinforce desired behaviors. Problem behaviors in cats, however, are best discouraged by the use of remote correction techniques in which the environment is booby trapped so that the particular behavior becomes self-correcting. Since the behavior, not the owner, is associated with the negative experience, the cat learns not to scratch the furniture, jump on the counters, eat the plants, etc. even when the owner is absent. Fortunately, cats delight in routine and are truly creatures of habit, so once a bad habit is broken and replaced by a new behavior, the new behavior becomes routine.