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Use positive reinforcement in cat education


Positive reinforcement has been known for a long time in dog training, but you can also use this method for cat training. The main thing is to reward desired behavior. You can find out exactly how this works here. "Positive reinforcement, does that mean I get a treat now?" Hopes this cute lucky cat - Shutterstock / Alexey Savchuk

As is well known, our velvet paws have their own free will, but cat education is not an impossibility. The most useful is the so-called positive reinforcement. If your kitty notices that she is rewarded for a certain behavior, she does it more often - without any pressure or pressure.

What is positive reinforcement?

The term "reinforcement" comes from behaviorism, a psychological direction that deals with the behavior of living beings. Reinforcement plays a role in so-called conditioning, which examines how animals and humans can learn by experiencing the principle of cause and effect. You can read more about this in our article "The Pavlovian dog and classic conditioning". During the reinforcement, the living beings learn to show a certain behavior more often. This is countered by the punishment, which aims to show a certain behavior less often.

Positive reinforcement means that something follows your behavior that your cat, for example, finds comfortable. In other words: a reward. Your clever little tiger will quickly understand which actions are worthwhile for him and which are not. This often happens unintentionally. For example, have you noticed that your cat is always meowing next to them as soon as you open the refrigerator door? This is due to positive reinforcement, because your clever kitty understood that the sound of the fridge door could mean "food" and that her meowing can cause you to fill up her bowl.

If you actually do this, your fur nose has also unconsciously taken advantage of the positive reinforcement - after all, a happy purring cat who is apparently happy about its full bowl is again a reward for you. This means that you will now perform the "Fill up bowl" action more often with the "Cat meows" stimulus.

Cat education: are punishments and ranting useless?

Cat education is a lot more difficult than dog education, but it is not impossible ...

Apply positive reinforcement in cat education

For example, if you want your cat to listen to its name, you can call it whenever there is food. Your velvet paw notices that when she hears the sound of her name and then comes to you, it is worth it for her because she gets something to eat. After that, you can also call them when it comes to cuddling and petting your cat on the sofa. At first she may be surprised that there is no food, but if she understands that she can count on cuddling units, this is also a reward. Another motivation to listen to their name is the prospect of a game hour with you.

Another way to use positive reinforcement in cat education is to scratch the scratching post. If you praise your fur nose and give it a treat or stroke it when it scratches its claws on the scratching post, it increases the likelihood that it will not use your furniture, wallpaper or curtains for this natural need. If you want your cat to stay away from the table or the kitchenette, you can use the method to make the windowsill or other sleeping places tasty by rewarding them with treats, petting or praising them.

Cat education for undesirable behavior

But what to do if your cat does something that it shouldn't? How can she know she can't? This is where the other terms of conditioning come into play, on the one hand the so-called negative reinforcement, on the other hand the positive and negative punishment. Positive punishment means that undesirable behavior directly leads to an unpleasant consequence. An example of this would be a spray of water from the spray bottle when your cat is sitting on the dining table. However, these "classic" penalties are very controversial in cat education because they can have unforeseen consequences - you can never be 100% sure that your pet will really associate the unpleasant consequence with your undesirable behavior.

The negative punishment also aims to make your cat less likely to behave in a certain way. But here she is not actively punished, but indirectly by interrupting something that is comfortable for her. For example, if you scratch or bite your hand while playing with it, you pause the game. Or if your fur nose is on the kitchen counter, put it down. Then comes the negative reinforcement, where you resolve an uncomfortable situation for your pet. When she has calmed down and let go of your hand while playing, the game continues. After lowering them from their place on the kitchen counter, you can lure them to their alternative sleeping places and reward them there. With enough perseverance, consistency and patience, cats can be raised without violence and harsh words.