Sometimes television can actually be inspiring. All those of you out there who don’t watch, you don’t know what you are missing.
I have no idea how long this show has been on the air in the US but Animal Planet Canada has recently started running episodes of a cat training, yes cat training, show called My Cat From Hell. My first reaction was suspicion. I rolled my eyes and made a sarcastic remark about cat whispering. Regardless, I decided to give it a shot and was pleasantly surprised.
Don’t get me wrong, the show is unquestionably cheesy. The host drives up to the home in a muscle car. He proudly displays a shaved head and tattoos, guitar case in hand as if he intends on lulling the cat into obedience with his song. If you’ve seen one episode you have seen them all. It’s usually a couple. One of whom loves cats, the other would rather have a dog. Jackson Galaxy, host and cat behaviourist, is incredibly patient and soft-spoken. All problems are usually solved with the purchase of some cat furniture and toys. The owners always seem amazed to learn that cats actually like to interact with their people.
But I am not writing this to rip on clueless cat owners. In fact, one of these owners, a man who claimed to hate cats, has inspired me to take my relationship with my cat in another direction. After two weeks, this man not only had the cat happily walking on a leash, but he had also taught him a few tricks. Two weeks! The cat used to hiss at the guy as soon as he entered the room and all of a sudden he was giving him a high-five! It proved to me that no matter how old or how grumpy, cats are clearly just as capable of working with people as dogs are. If this cat who hated his owner could learn, than my cat who at least tolerates my presence, can too.
Maybe, just maybe, he will learn to like me. Maybe he’ll even start to seek out my presence. Maybe he’ll even purr when I pick him up instead of act like being near me is a torture he has learned to endure.
It’s all about finding my cat’s currency. As the stores are always stocked with a variety of canned meat and fish, I don’t think this will be a problem. The cat can be fast asleep on the bed and if I open a can of tuna in the kitchen upstairs, he’s by my side in milliseconds. It doesn’t get any simpler.
I’ve started at the beginning – working on getting him to sit. He’s already trained to jumped to the top of his cat furniture when he wants a treat. So I’ve been working on shaping him to sit before I give him the food. With a cat, I think it’s vital to keep all training sessions brief. I don’t have his attention long. As soon as he gets what he wants, he’s out of there. So I have to do what I can in the thirty seconds I have his focus. So far it’s going pretty well. He’s sitting within five seconds. The key now will be getting him to sit not just on top of his furniture but on the floor and on cue.
It may be time to find that old clicker of mine. Before long I hope to show off my very first cat training video!
Have you ever trained a cat to perform tricks or walk on a leash? Do you know anyone who has? Any words of wisdom to share?