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Alpha Cat

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
So, I was wondering... there are all these pet shows out there that show home owners how to dish out punishment on your furry friends so they know who to respect and how to train them. I don't watch T.V., so I was wondering if any of you know any shows or literature that inform you on how to live with your cats so I can maybe grab the DVD's off Netflix or something. I'm not so fond of retiring any type of dominance and relinquishing to statements like, "my cats own me"/"I'm the pet, my cat is actually the master"/"I just pay the rent, my cats own this apartment"...I'M THE BOSS, DARNIT!!! Anyway, I hear negative reinforcement is a bad thing and I don't want my cats to only stop doing things cause they're afraid I'll kick them in the abdomen. Any good stuff out there to teach an owner how to "talk" to a cat?
post #2 of 13
I had lunch one day with the original Dog Listener and asked her if she was aware of any comparable literature about cats. She just laughed at me. There are articles written about lion prides which are considered to have behaviors closest to the domestic cat. She referrred me to research done by the Born Free organization.

I really don't think that you will ever dominate a cat nor should you try to. The best you can do is understand their behaviors and peaceably coexist with them. Understand what motivates them and play up on that. For example, cats like to get up on high places and look down upon their worlds. Give them a tall cat tree to defer them from living on your counters and tables.

Sorry, can't refer you to any specific literature. I mostly watch mine to learn about them, and when I get stumped I do research (here or other sites).
post #3 of 13
This 8 page article talks about communicating to cats and them communicating back.

http://www.petpeoplesplace.com/resou...ats/013-01.htm

Lack of communication is where problems begin.

My cat very well knows not to go on the new chair, she does it anyway, I have to keep after her about it, when she does not do it anymore, I tell her she's a good girl. When she slips up, then she hears it from me.

ETA: I NEVER hit her, but, I do pat her nose once in a while, they are like kids and sometimes don't listen.
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewweilin View Post
So, I was wondering... there are all these pet shows out there that show home owners how to dish out punishment on your furry friends so they know who to respect and how to train them. I don't watch T.V., so I was wondering if any of you know any shows or literature that inform you on how to live with your cats so I can maybe grab the DVD's off Netflix or something. I'm not so fond of retiring any type of dominance and relinquishing to statements like, "my cats own me"/"I'm the pet, my cat is actually the master"/"I just pay the rent, my cats own this apartment"...I'M THE BOSS, DARNIT!!! Anyway, I hear negative reinforcement is a bad thing and I don't want my cats to only stop doing things cause they're afraid I'll kick them in the abdomen. Any good stuff out there to teach an owner how to "talk" to a cat?
Cat lingo will always be more advanced and appear daunting to us humans!
post #5 of 13
That kind of showing them who's boss thing doesn't work with cats. They're not pack animals like dogs and the dominance hierarchy is very fluid (esp for neutered house cats as resources tend not to be limited). A cat won't respect you as boss - a cat will do whatever he chooses! The trick to training a cat is to make them think they are making the decision to do something or not go where you don't want them. Clicker training is supposed to be quite good - I have the book and clicker but have never got around to doing any training!
post #6 of 13
That's right - the more you try to exert your 'boss-ness' on cats, the more they'll go some other way, depending on the time of day, what room you're in, where some other cat is, etc. etc. That's what makes them infuriating, but lovable!
post #7 of 13
It comes down to the basic drives of the animals. To simplify things a bit.

Deep down dogs are convinced that if they are living completely alone, they will die. This means that they really need to be a part of a pack and that they'll do things just for the priviledge of staying a part of that pack. Hence their desire to please, and also why negative reinforcement can work on dogs. They'll accept punishment and try not to displease you to stick with the pack so to speak.

Deep down cats are convinced that if they are living completely alone, they'll do just fine (even when that's not actually the case). They don't feel like they need to stick with their "pack" no matter the cost and if put through too much negative stuff like harsh negative reinforcement etc. they'll just leave. If they can't leave physically because they're indoor cats etc. they'll retreat into themselves and hide under things etc.

This doesn't mean that cats don't like us, they are social just not strictly hierarchical pack animals. That's also why them choosing to give us their trust and to stay with us is so amazing because they have the option not to.

Anyway negative reinforcement doesn't really work on cats. It sort of does in that you can hiss at them or say no! and shoo them off tables etc. and they'll quickly learn what you don't want them to do, but they don't care about upsetting you so as soon as your back is turned and the immediate consequence of being told NO! and put back on the floor isn't there they'll be right back up on that table.

Clicker training works on cats because that's training using only positive reinforcement. I've clicker trained my cat to jump between two chairs, stand on two legs etc. we're working on 'sit' now.

The other thing that works on cats when you're having a battle of wills is just to ignore them. I.e if they're meowing at your door for attention and waking you up in the middle of the night etc. The only thing that will stop them doing it in the long term is to let them learn that their tactics just don't work. I.e by not responding at all. If you respond after a while of meowing that's just teaching the cat that they need to be even louder and more stubborn.

I remember seeing a study where they had trained cats to push a lever to get a treat. Then they increased how often the cat needed to push the lever to get the treat and made it random. Then they stopped so the lever would never give a treat. They found that the cat pressed the lever over 3000 times in a row right after that change but stopped pressing the lever completely shortly after that since there were no treats to be had. They can be stubborn and persistent creatures

messybeast.com has some very interesting articles on feline behaviour, look at the subsection on behaviour, the link is here: http://www.messybeast.com/catarchive.htm
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewweilin View Post
"my cats own me"/"I'm the pet, my cat is actually the master"/"I just pay the rent, my cats own this apartment"...
That's what cat ownership is all about
post #9 of 13
My Sweetie knows not to scratch at the furniture. But she does it anyway. When I tell her NO, she stops but moves on to another spot. She is so stubborn. Yet I would never think of punishing her. She has all kinds of scratching posts and prefers a bundle of unopen boxes. We do keep her clipped and the next thing is Soft Paws. My Petsmart only had the clear. I want colored ones so when they come off I can see them. My kitties do own me. In the AM they stand by the bowls until I put in food. When I scoop the litter in the AM they have to inspect the clean. The house is run by their needs. I love them anyway. They are my kids.
post #10 of 13
What do people think of the squirt gun approach to training?
What is this clicker thing?

X
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewweilin View Post
I don't want my cats to only stop doing things cause they're afraid I'll kick them in the abdomen. Any good stuff out there to teach an owner how to "talk" to a cat?
I sincerely hope you were not serious when you made this statement about kicking them in the abdomen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xman View Post
What do people think of the squirt gun approach to training?
X
Most of us don't approve of the squirt gun/bottle approach. If water should accidentally get into their ears they can develop a serious infection.

IMO, if you want an animal that responds to domination, get yourself a dog and leave the cats to those of us who don't mind not being alpha.
post #12 of 13
Clicker training is a way of training that uses only positive reinforcement.

Basically a clicker is a small plastic object with a button that clicks when you press it. How it works is that you put the animal in a situation where it's likely that they'll naturally do something close to what you want them to and then if they do that you click the clicker and give them a treat.

Then you build up the association so that the animal knows that it was doing the "right" thing when you click and also that whenever you click it'll get a treat.

Then you slowly shape the behaviour into being more specific or more complex. The key is to never punish for doing things wrong, they just don't get a click and don't get a treat then. Also to set it up so that it's quite likely that they'll do the right thing most of the time. Cats get demotivated very easily and give up if they think the activity isn't worth it, i.e not enough treats.

In some ways you could say you don't need the clicker at all, the treat is enough on its own but the clicker really helps to pinpoint exactly when the animal did the right thing which helps define what the right thing is and makes it easier to build on. It's quite fun.

Here's a video that shows the clicker training process:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q787R2DNDJI
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by xman View Post
What do people think of the squirt gun approach to training?
It doesn't teach a cat the proper behavior. It only tells the cat what you don't want them to do rather than what you do want them to do. And to other's points, they simply won't do that behavior in front of you.

If you use redirective positive training, you are teaching them proper behaviors and they will tend to use those behaviors as they know they get some form of reward out of it.

Remember its all about what's in it for them, not what's in it for you.
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