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Introducing Cats To A Clicker
Catherine J. Crawmer
Why And How To Do It
Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained to do many things. In fact, cats are extremely intelligent and training them is not only possible it is fun and really quite simple! In order to train your cat we need to establish a system that allows us to improve the timing of our reinforcement.
Your cat will eat the same amount of canned food he is eating now but you will deliver each mouthful to him! It’s not difficult at all and you can do it sitting down while you are watching TV or talking on the phone.
Put down a plate, within easy reach, right next to your chair. Open a can of cat food, get a little spoon and you are ready to start.
1. Get a very small amount of food on the spoon
2. Click the clicker just once
3. Put the food on the plate
4. When the cat is completely done eating that portion…… repeat 1-4
Continue until all the food is eaten. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
You may notice that your cat eats very slowly. Most cats do. It’s normal.
If you are training two or more cats you can do it at the same time for all of them. The cats that are currently eating will ignore the click noise and the food that the others are getting. As you notice each cat that is finished eating you simply click and feed that one.
If you spend time on this simple procedure you will be amazed what can be done at the training session. It will move things along nicely and enhance the training experience for all involved.
Check out this video on how to introduce your cat to a clicker.
Click on the link below.
New Cat In Your Home
Catherine J. Crawmer
Unfortunately, many people have expectations that may be a little bit too high. Very few cats will feel comfortable in their first few days in an environment that is foreign to them. Many cats in the humane society are coming from unhappy circumstances where they have been frightened by people and other animals. Some cats have never been in a home at all. It is important to plan well for what may be a very frightening experience for your new pet. Planning can make the difference in facilitating a smooth and stress free transition for the new cat.
Start by setting up a quiet room with everything your new pet will need well in advance of his arrival. A small room with little traffic is best. Initial introductions to the family, especially children, should be calm and quiet. I usually recommend that everyone sit quietly on the floor before letting the cat out of his carrier for the first time. Avoiding loud noises and sudden or erratic movements is a good idea. Children should be encouraged to speak very quietly.
Nervous or frightened animals eat very little if they eat at all. You will be able to judge how well your cat is adjusting by the amount of food that he is eating. It is not unusual for a timid cat to hide for several days as he gets used to the sights and sounds around him. Behaviors exhibited in the first few days are not indicative of what kind of pet the cat will be in the future. When your new cat adjusts completely to his initial space his area can be expanded one or two rooms at a time until he has access to the entire house, if that is your choice.
The time spent on bonding with a new cat can be wonderful for both your family and your new pet. Building trust can take a while
Catherine Crawmer’s book, Here Kitty Kitty, a book on training cats, won two awards from the International Cat Writer’s Association
You’re Going For A Ride!
Catherine J. Crawmer
Cats in cars. Can you think of anything worse? You sure can’t just set him on the seat and drive off like you could if you had a dog. He would probably claw you half to death and then end up plastered, spread eagle, to the window like one of those funny plastic novelties. Although he doesn’t need much, you occasionally have to take him to a vet. He may have to be boarded or, if he’s long haired, be transported to a groomer. But first you’ve got to find him. He could be anywhere. If he gets into that back closet he could hunker down in a dozen different boxes. Then, after you find him, you have to catch him. Heaven knows what that is going to take! You could throw a towel over him. Somebody said that you should try a net. He’s probably going to claw you anyway because in order to get him into a carrier you’ve got to get a grip on him. Easier said than done! He may be small but he’s wiry and faster than lightening when he wants to be. It’s a nightmare, that’s for sure. It’s got to be done, but I’m not looking forward to it!
It’s too bad, really, because every hour of the day he can be found lying in his favorite spot on the back of the couch where that little spot of sun shines in. That’s 364 days a year. But on the one day that you have to get him in the car he’s nowhere to be found. Just plain gone! It’s almost like he knows! How could he know anything? After all, he’s just a cat. All year long he doesn’t bother anybody. He lies around all day, hardly ever gets up. He is a great cat. A perfect cat! The only time you see him move is when he hears that can opener. You don’t have to look for him then. He comes running. It’s about as fast as he ever moves except on that one day when you have to catch him to get him in the car.
Once you are lucky enough to get the towel over him you can hold him real tight but, even if you do, it’s worth your life to get him in the carrier. The funny thing though is that when you get him to the vet’s office you can’t get him out of the carrier. Getting him back in at the vet hospital is no problem either. He runs in as soon as the door opens. I guess he would rather be in the carrier than on the exam table.
Does this scenario sound familiar? If you are the average cat owner it probably does. Most cats don’t have much of a relationship with the people they live with. Some cats are rarely seen except at feeding time. A “good” cat is a cat that doesn’t bother anybody, doesn’t scratch up the furniture and consistently uses the litter box.
In short, the average cat owner expects very little from his cat and usually gets exactly what he expects. The idea of training a cat to do anything is a concept most people have not entertained. The amazing truth is that cats are easily trained and the relationship one can develop from that training can result in rich rewards for both human and cat. All it takes is a little time and a systematic plan to achieve your goals. You also need to maintain confidence in the fact that training a cat can be done and that you are going to do it.
First, in order to get used to riding in the car, your pet should go in the car. This sounds like a simple enough observation to make but most cats never get in the car unless headed off to a vet. Cats have good memories. Chase a cat, catch it, and shove it into a cage, drive the animal to a vet for a couple shots and all you have ultimately done is encourage greater resistance for the next go-round. The whole set up, from beginning to end, invariably produces a frightened and defensive cat. It doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning you can have your cat going in the carrier and riding comfortably in the car. To accomplish any long range objective one must lay out a step by step program to achieve the ultimate goal. It is always best to start training a kitten as soon as you acquire him. But even if you are dealing with an adult or older cat, you can certainly accomplish your goals. The disadvantage is that an older cat comes with “baggage” based on previous experience. Don’t despair if you are working with an older animal; just be aware that the process is likely to take longer. If you are working with a kitten it all goes surprisingly fast.
Get A Carrier
The choice of a carrier is very important and a poor choice can be a detriment. It should be a hard fiberglass with a barred, see through type, door and air venting all around. This provides ventilation and does not completely cut the cat off from his surroundings. The open all wire type cage is not appropriate since the cat can try to push out the pan or try to get through the openings, creating additional stress. Most cats appreciate the feeling of privacy and security afforded by a fiberglass enclosure. The size of the carrier is important. I carrier should be large enough for the cat to stand up and turn all the way around. Getting a cat into a carrier that is too small is problem enough but getting him out of that too small carrier can be a real problem. The collapsible type of carrier that is carried like an over the shoulder bag may be in vogue right now but most of them do not provide the cat with enough support to feel comfortable. The flat, under airline seat, type of carrier is only good for the purpose for which it was intended. It doesn’t offer the average cat sufficient height to be comfortable. The cardboard type carriers shouldn’t be used for anything.
Provide Carrier Stability
Once you have a quality carrier you will need to tie the door open. The reason why you want to tie it open rather than just prop it open is so that it can’t move or slam shut. Place your carrier on a thick rug so that it will not slide if a fast running cat was to run into it. Put your carrier in such a place that it cannot turn over. Put it next to a wall and put a chair leg next to it, for instance. You can also tie it to something. You do not want anything about the carrier to frighten the cat. No sliding, door slamming or flipping over. A positive initial introduction to the crate will save time. If you are starting with an older cat he may very well have some aversive history with carriers. In such cases, be assured that you will be successful, but you should expect that the process will take longer.
Place Carrier In A Conspicuous Area
The only time most cats see a carrier is when the cat owner retrieves it from the garage. It is far from a positive thing. After all, every time he sees a carrier he is chased, frightened and transported to someplace he doesn’t care to be. He runs when he sees a carrier? Why wouldn’t he? The cat’s reaction to the sight of a carrier should be a wake up call for those who feel that a cat has no memory, doesn’t notice anything or isn’t smart enough to connect one event to another. The carrier should be moved around the house and properly secured, door tied open and on a non slip surface, at various parts of every room of the house over a period of days. It is also a good idea to place appealing bedding material within it. Some cats, especially kittens, will immediately check out any open box, bag or container. Older cats may be more suspicious but at the very least we want the cat to become very familiar with the carrier. He should expect to see it anywhere at any time. At the point where he either goes in and out of his own accord or appears to be ignoring it we are ready to move to the next level.
Carriers Are Great Places
Great things are about to happen in the carrier. Now that the cat is not looking at the carrier in a negative way you start feeding him in it. If he is eating a dry food that can be put in the carrier so that he can come and go all day. The best food, however, for the purpose of training, is any food which he normally consumes immediately such as a canned food or a piece of fish or meat. If he is very bold you can put his food right in the back of the crate so he must enter it completely. If he is more tentative don’t push forward too fast. Place the food near the carrier, then just inside the door and finally push it into the back. Anytime he hears the can opener he should be running to the carrier because all feeding is delivered therein. How long can the cat hate carriers? How long can you hate a dinner table?
Close The Door
At the point where observations are showing a cat that is not at all worried about eating in the carrier you will want to shut the door. It is not advisable to close him in and leave for any length of time. The idea is to close the door when he eats and open it immediately when he is done eating. There could be no problem with this step at all or it could be a real source of anxiety for the cat. Watch closely and don’t move quickly. If he becomes frightened it may be necessary to go backward in the program and repeat former steps to get back to this point.
Time To Move
When the cat is eating confidently with the door closed and has been doing it for a while it is time to move the carrier while he is eating. You can simply pick up the carrier and set it down in the same place to start. As he builds confidence you can move it from one side of the room to the other and from one room to another.
When the cat gets used to a moving carrier and exhibits a willingness to continue his meal it is time to move the carrier to the car. When he is done eating you can move his carrier back into the house. It is this step that may take the longest and you cannot move forward until he is eating in his carrier while in the car. The next steps will involve: starting the car engine while he is eating, moving the car backward and forward while he is eating and finally a short ride around the block. Since all exposure to the car ends positively with his return to the house he will start to relax. There is no hurry here. Take your time and do not move forward from any one step to another until you have evidence of a relaxed cat willing to eat in the current set of circumstances.
Like any training process involving an animal, the trainer of that animal can expect to achieve an improved relationship. A real pet is not an ornament. A cat that never moves, is rarely seen, or has no interest in approaching his person is not a perfect pet. Sadly, many people do not expect to have a meaningful relationship with a cat. Most do not even entertain the thought that such a relationship is a realistic possibility. Cats and their owners can have so much more! Cats can be trained to do many things and meaningful interaction with a cat is an enjoyable prospect for both person and cat. Training your cat can promote a level of communication attainable in no other way. Mutual understanding and communication is both useful and enjoyable at the same time.
Catherine J. Crawmer is a professional animal trainer, lecturer, award winning authorand owner of Crawmer’s Animal Training in West Sand Lake, New York TrainEmAll@aol.com 518-477-8230
Lead Training Cats
Catherine J. Crawmer
House cats, bobcats, caracal, lynx and their larger cousins can be trained to walk on a lead. Anyone can do it. If you apply effective methodology and stick to a program the process is short and the rewards are great. For educational programs in the open air it is necessary to restrain the cat for it’s own safety and security. It is also handy to be able to be able to move a cat from point A to point B for any number of reasons.
Unfortunately, most individuals end up using the lead in a way that does not make the animal appear comfortable.
The most important thing to remember at the onset is that a cat is not a dog. The idea of walking in a determined fashion until he “sees it your way” and follows along is not a plan that will prove productive. More often than not, a lead will be snapped onto the cat’s collar with no plan in place. The cat will react like a trapped animal and will either flip through the air trying to free itself or will exhibit a state of total paralysis. Proper preparation will result in a lead training session that will be positive for both the cat and the trainer. Practice and systematic lesson progression is necessary while keeping goals reasonable and sessions short. It is often difficult for folks to recognize the small steps that lead to the ultimate reward. Cats, in particular, can make excellent progress in a session that lasts a few minutes. I like to think of a cat as a busy person’s best training project. A few minutes here or there on a regular basis really will get the job done.
To start you need a collar that fits. I like a snug leather or nylon collar that is not going to come over the cat’s head. Harnesses are not as good as there are very few that a cat cannot free himself from if he backs up and twists just right.
Contrary to popular practice, I do not recommend a short lead. On house cats I use a 20ft Venetian blind with a small but strong clip tied and taped to one end. I say taped because knots tend to work themselves out of nylon material. Any lead should be strong enough for the particular species. The hook should always be strong and secure.
Determine what the cat likes. Does he like a certain food treat? Most house cats work well with soft cat food. Large and exotic cats, regardless of species, will eat pieces of raw stew beef. The important thing to do is cut the pieces small enough so that it doesn’t take him all day to eat them. If pieces are too big most of your time will be wasted on watching him chew. If you have ever tried to cut up raw stew beef you know that you are more likely to cut your finger off than get a knife through it. If you freeze the meat and cut it as it starts to thaw you will be amazed how easy the job can be. I like to use a jogger or fanny pack around my waist where I keep the treats. If you are working with other than a house cat that is likely to lunge for the meat you might be better to put the meat in an unreachable area that you can access and still keep yourself safe.
This is probably a good point to talk about safety. If the cat is dangerous leash training is not the first thing that you should be doing with him! You cannot protect yourself from a cat by using a leash. What I am describing here is for handleable animals only!
The collar should be placed on the animal several days before you begin actual training to give him the time to get used to how it feels. All the scratching and head shaking should be history long before you snap a lead to the collar.
Now I know that you’re thinking that I’ve done a lot of writing here and you still don’t have the cat on a leash. That’s right. Preparation to do the job will actually take longer than you will want to take but properly done it will save you both time and frustration.
There’s even something else to do! This is very important and can’t be overdone. I talked about using something that the cat likes to reward it. Truthfully, there are hundreds of things that the cat will work for. To be simplistic here, I will assume that you are using food and using it in the form of the stew beef that I have already mentioned. Food treats are excellent for training the cats but there are two things wrong with it. If the behavior you are trying to encourage happens quickly you are unlikely to be able to get food into his mouth at the correct moment. If the behavior occurs at some distance you are definitely not going to have good timing in your delivery. Timing. It’s not important. Timing is vital.
For several days before you start leash training you need to involve yourself in a strange activity that will raise a few eyebrows around the compound. It’s always interesting to hear about how “we did it in the old days” and you will hear such stories when you start to engage in “new fangled” practices. First, pick a noise. It can be a whistle, a single spoken letter of the alphabet, a child’s clicker toy, a bell or anything else with a quick, single tone that will be easy to sound. What we are looking for here is a way to improve our timing.
While we are teaching our “bridge” sound to the animal he needs to do nothing except hear and eat. You go by his pen, sound your noise first then give him his meat. You may be able to repeat it ten times. Later in the day come back and do it again. Noise=meat. There is no possible way to do this too much but people, being impatient,
often under do it. Why take the chance? Do it for a week. Do it several times a day. Believe me, by the end of a week your cat is going to like the sound of that noise.
Now it’s time to use it. The preparation took far longer than you wanted it to but you will now see that it was time well spent. Snap the leash on the cat. Keep pressure on the lead at all times although the pressure should be very slight. What you want to avoid is a cat suddenly charging to the end of a slack line and becoming terrified at a sudden and shocking jerk.
As the cat moves away, allow him to do it, increasing the pressure slightly on the lead until he gets about 10 feet away. At that point increase the pressure until he cannot go forward. Now we wait. It may take him seconds or a minute to slacken the lead by moving slightly in your direction. At the moment you feel him slacken the lead sound your chosen “bridge” noise and reward him with a piece of meat. Many cats will come to you instantly when the noise is sounded. By using the noise we have made an effective bridge between the cat’s action and the ultimate meat reward. Our timing is now perfect. In each short lesson you will want to get one to three favorable responses from your cat. A short lesson with a little progress will further your agenda far more than pressing the session lengths. At each session you will see the cat loosen the lead a bit faster. As he becomes more comfortable with the process he will start moving toward you because it pays better than when he moves away from you. A few sessions a day would be good but one session a day is fine too.
If you have a paralyzed cat who will not move you will move about 10 feet away and wait. The paralyzed animals will take longer than the ones who are willing to move but eventually even this type of cat will move a small amount and slacken the lead enough for you to reward him. I have often sat down on the ground to wait a cat out. You simply can’t be in any hurry.
Every animal progresses at a different rate depending upon his temperament and past experiences. Patience is necessary. Keep your expectations low and be encouraged by any small progressive movement toward the desired end. Cats remember very well and it is not unusual for them to make giant leaps forward when the animal figures out that he can do something that will result in a positive occurrence for him.
Catherine J. Crawmer is a professional animal trainer and owner of Crawmer’s Animal Training Phone: 518 477-8230 email: TrainEmAll@aol.com
Training House Cats? Yes!
Catherine J. Crawmer
For untold centuries human beings have enjoyed a relationship with cats. Cats have been admired for their beauty, their grace and their willingness to control rodent populations. Health experts have pointed out that stroking a cat can even lower human blood pressure. Whether you enjoy a cat for it’s looks or it’s function the chances are that you have not even “scratched the surface” of cat relationship possibilities! In my forty years of training animals of many species I have come to the conclusion that the domestic house cat is the most under appreciated animal on earth.
After thousands of years in the company of man what more could we possibly learn about the mind of the cat? Plenty! It may be time for you and your cat to get out of the rocking chair and onto the training course! Yes, cats are being trained! And, we’re not talking about just training them to use the litter box! Average house cats are learning to sit, lie down, sit up, walk on a leash, jump over a jump, go through a tunnel, pop over a six foot scaling wall and more, more more! In fact, the training possibilities available for cats are only limited by their owner’s imagination.
The adage that a cat is “too independent” to train is so ingrained in the minds of most people that they set themselves up for failure. It’s not a case of cat training being impossible. It is a case of not knowing how to accomplish it. In fact, cats can be trained to do anything a dog can do. However, cat training is not accomplished by the same methodology that has been traditionally used to train dogs.
Cats have their own motivations! When we recognize the difference between species- specific goals we can communicate in a way that is meaningful to the cat. When we pay the cat with reinforcement that he will work, for the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Timing of the reinforcement is paramount in cat training. The reinforcement can be anything that the cat enjoys including, but not limited to, such things as treats, petting and play. The timing of the reinforcement is made perfect by employing a “bridge” which is simply a signal to the cat that he will be “paid” soon.
Proper use of the “bridge” allows the trainer to impart information to the animal with precise accuracy. While any type of bridge can be used, the most convenient will usually be a distinct noise such as a whistle or a children’s toy known as a cricket or clicker.
With proper use of the “bridge” noise perfect timing can occur during fast action behaviors exhibited by the cat. While it would be impossible to reinforce a cat with food at the highest point of its jump, application of a properly timed “bridge” will provide the trainer with a means to acquire perfect timing in this situation. For distance work there is nothing to equal a “bridge” for communicating with your cat.
Before a “bridge” can be used it must first be established as such. It is best to allow several days of “pairing” the food, petting and play with the noise you plan to use. Fortunately, this is very easy. All you will do is make the noise and pet the cat. Make the noise and feed the cat, or make the noise and play with the cat.
You’ll know when your “bridge” is ready to use after doing an easy test. Simply sound your “bridge.” If your cat stops what he is doing comes to you and seems to expect something, you are ready to start!
There are many applications for the use of a “bridge” while training your cat but one of the simplest is to “catch” the cat doing something that you like. At the precise moment that he is engaged in your target behavior sound your “bridge”. He will instantly stop what he is doing and come to you for his “pay”. Don’t let the fact that he stopped bother you. He will seek to repeat whatever he was doing when he heard the “you will be paid” sound. As he repeats the behavior and becomes consistent you will then make a name for that behavior and use that as a verbal cue to the cat, allowing you to elicit the behavior at will.
One of the best places to start using your “bridge” is at the daily feeding. While most cats are waiting for us to prepare their dinner or open a can of food they are usually doing all kinds of movements that may include such behaviors as sitting, rolling, jumping around and rubbing against your legs.
All you need do is select any one of those behaviors and sound your “bridge” at the point where your cat is doing the behavior that you have selected. After you sound your bridge you must always pay him. Never pay your cat with a bad check!” When he hears his “bridge” he should know that he will receive a positive event or treat worth working for. However, it is not necessary to pay him with the entire meal. You can get him to offer several demonstrations of your target behavior before putting down his bowl.
While certain breeds and individuals may be better at one thing than another all breeds and mix breed cats can be trained to do interesting behaviors. If you are inclined to spend time working with your cat he can learn even complex routines. It is so much fun to train a cat! You will develop a relationship with him that you never imagined was possible.
Catherine Crawmer is a professional trainer who has been training cats for more than 35 years. Author of Here Kitty, Kitty! ; Catherine Crawmer on Training Cats. she has produced videos of trained cats for universities, behaviorists, and scientific presentations on applied behavior analysis.
Kitten Kittens Everywhere!
Catherine J. Crawmer
More stray kittens are born in spring and summer than at any other time. Within the next months to follow humane societies will be full of kittens that were born to stray cats. People often find litters of kittens in their garages or under their porches. Sometimes it is possible to catch the mother cat but often that is not possible. When these kittens are ultimately brought to animal shelters they are seeking homes, unfortunately, at the same time as thousands of others. Additionally, since these creatures are born feral they often have health problems including, but certainly not limited to, fleas, worms and ear mite.
While there is nothing cuter than a kitten animals that are not socialized at an early age are not appealing as pets to people who want to interact with a new pet right away. If you are in a position to help a litter of feral kittens it is very important to get them socialized early. Ideal age would be as soon as they are eating on their own. After that point they will follow their mother in her behaviors which may include hiding and running from human contact. At this point the only thing to do is catch them in a humane live trap.
Kittens that have been born wild and not socialized early can be socialized at a later age but the process may take months of patient and persistent human contact.
Many people will be getting new kittens. A little planning in advance will avoid problems later on. In the first few weeks important habits are being established. First consideration is always the litter box. People are often surprised to learn that kittens are not born looking for one. Litter box use is something that a kitten learns. The litter box should be very convenient to the kitten’s location. I like to start the kitten out in one room and be sure he is using the box in that room before allowing him into the next room. If you have a large house and the kitten is to have the run of the house you will need multiple litter boxes in convenient locations. The number of litter boxes can be gradually decreased later on
Try several types of litter to determine which is most appealing to your kitten. Stay away from clumping litters especially if you have longhaired kittens. If the litter sticks to the paws or hair the cat make lick it off creating a serious medical problem. Newspaper shredded on top of a small amount of litter seems agreeable to most cats but there are a huge variety of litters to choose from these days.
Have patience. A new kitten is a baby who needs to learn. Keep your expectations reasonable and be ready to make changes if what you are doing is not working. Any kitten can learn to fit into your environment if you just give him a chance.
Catherine J. Crawmer is a professional animal trainer, award winning author and owner of Crawmer’s Animal Training in West Sand Lake, NY 518 477-8230 TrainEmAll@aol.com