Cat Wrangling Examples

This is an slightly ambitious title. I am not sure I can live up to it. However, I’ll try and pass on a few simple ideas and techniques I have on the subject. There are not many because I don’t usually need to make demands on my cat. Also I expect other people have better ideas.

By the way, “cat wrangling” for me means getting cats to do certain things. It is achieved in the nicest possible way. I live with a cat called Charlie who I refer to in this post.

Cat Wrangling

Cat Wrangling

Carrying and Presenting

Sometimes cats don’t fully appreciate what you are trying to do and achieve for them. Here are two examples of what I mean by “carrying and presenting”.

Example 1

There are two stray cats outside. My cat does not like them. They have come to be feed by me! Silly me. My cat wants to go outside to go to the toilet. What to do to satisfy the strays and my cat? I place my cat in my room. I feed the strays. The strays go. Then I carry my cat outside and close the door. He is presented with the garden and his toilet. This reminds him he has to have a pee.

Example 2

My cat usually asks for his food and then I carry him to the kitchen and feed him. Sometimes I might put the food down first for the night or for some other reason and let him go to it under his own steam. If I know he is hungry and I have put down some food that will go off, I will carry him to the food and present it too him.

Also, sometimes he doesn’t see the new food I have put down. I then place it in front of him and he gets the message. It can be useful to place a cat very near food that you want him to eat. A lack of awareness of what is there may be due to poor eyesight at close range and the fact that the nose gets in the way of eyesight! Although a result is no certainty.

Usually cats will sort things out by themselves. However, sometimes you can expedite the matter to the satisfaction of both of you if you carry and present.

The Tease

“Tease” refers to a cat tease, which is feather or similar object on the end of a stick or it might refer to a favorite food warmed up. Both push the hunting and feeding button in the cat. I guess the cat’s desire to hunt is the favorite motivator upon which wrangling a cat is based.

Example 1

I have to mention Ken Flick at this point. He has to get cats in the right position to be photographed by Helmi Flick. He does this by first carrying or gently placing the cat in the correct position and using a cat tease to get the cat to look in the correct direction. So he might place the cat facing away from the camera and then use a cat tease to make the cat turn around so that the cat’s eyes face the camera. This is obviously a specialist example. Most people don’t photograph cats like this. However, I would recommend people buy a cheap tease (about a dollar in the US) and hold that in one hand and the camera in the other. You’ll get a much better cat picture.

Here are a couple of pictures of Ken using the cat tease to wrangle cats. Don’t forget he has to handle them first to put the cat into position and then fine tune things with the cat tease:

Cat Wrangling

Cat Wrangling. Photos and collage by Michael

People don’t normally cat wrangle to get the cat into a photogenic position but the basics are still the same. It’s about getting the cat interested by pushing the hunting button.

Smelly Food

The obvious way to get a cat to come out of hiding is to place her favorite food gently warmed up about 3 feet from her nose. Guaranteed success. A cat might be hiding for any reason: new place, stranger in the house etc.

The Ambush

When I have to get Charlie into a cat carrier, which he hates, I will ambush him. My carrier has an open top rather than a side entrance. I place the carrier with the top open in a room other than where he is and near the door. I open the top quietly otherwise he will hear it. Just before we go to the vet or wherever it is, I collect him up and carry him to the carrier and put him in it. By the time he knows what has happened he is inside and the top fastened.

Tone of Voice + Routine

This is an interesting one. It is a form of informal training without any thought to training. I’ll give two examples.

Example 1

Charlie likes to sit on my chair in the exact spot where I want to sit. He knows that when I speak in a certain voice and have a certain demeanor (nice but firm) that he has to move off the spot and sit on the back of the chair or the arm rest. He invariably does this. How did this come about? I just talked to him and indicated that he should move by gently encouraging him to move off the spot. He now equates the sound of my voice with moving.

Example 2

I am in bed. Charlie is on the bed but not near me. If I thump on the duvet cover next to me and call to him he comes and lays partly on me and partly on the bed. He is close to me, which is what I wanted. How did this happen? It is just a question of time. Charlie does come to me and rests on my legs without encouragement. He puts his stump (he has 3 legs) on my leg and the rest of the body on the mattress. He quickly learned that banging on the mattress and calling to him is an invitation to come to one of his favorite positions. The key moment was him understanding that thumping the mattress meant to come. But there was no specific technique to get him to that state. Cats are quite switched on to these sorts of things.

However, it must be dependent on the individual cat. Some cats are going to be more responsive to informal training than others.

Do you have some examples of the way you get your cat to do things in the gentlest of ways?

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Cat Wrangling Examples — 11 Comments

  1. My husband has that firm (but nice) voice down. Monty does nothing I want him to do. I pretty much do everything he wants to do. I’m trying to change that. Right now I am too tired to take him outside. He will have to be content with sitting next to me. I know he wants out. My husband would say not to worry about it. Monty doesn’t have to always get what he wants. My cousin’s wife worries when her young son cries in disappointment. I told her it’s ok because he’s learning how to handle being disappointed, so just let him cry it out, but don’t fuss and try to soothe it away every time he can’t get what he wants. No one gets what he wants all the time. This should also be true of small black cats. My husband’s point is that Monty doesn’t always have to get what he wants either. He’ll be ok. He’ll find something else to do. I’ll take him outside tomorrow.

  2. Hi Michael,

    “Wrangling” is an interesting term for what seems to be about a type of cat training.

    I think I understand it but let me know if I miss the mark.

    It’s kind of a subtle and gentle form of training. The differences are that you aren’t necessarily using verbal commands and it’s more of a clever manipulation. It’s about getting a desired result. In most cases cat parent instincts seem to be involved.

    It might involve distraction, gaining focus, or solving a problem the cat doesn’t seem to be able to solve (as in the Carry And Present). The Carry And Present took me a couple seconds longer to figure out how it fits in with the rest but I got it 🙂

    My husband and I do some of the things that you do.

    When a cat doesn’t come at food time, I have to sometimes carry him right up to the dish. When he smells it he starts eating. Carry And Present.

    When a cat needs to go to the vet, I put the carrier in the living room with the carrier door open the night before. The cats get nervous because they know someone is going to the vet soon. They are a little less nervous the next day but not quite as much since they are a bit used to having the carrier there overnight.

    To distract their mind and calm their fears, I use a string or fishing rod style cat toy and start playing with them. They forget about the carrier. When the time seems right I put down the toy and sit next to them and pet them for a bit. Then I pick them up and put them in the carrier.

    My husband Erik is good with the vibe thing. He’s got the kind but firm vibe like you do and he uses it a lot. He’s got that leader of the pack or head of household feel. The cats pick up the vibe and respect it in a lot of ways.

    He can get them to come or go just by looking at them. He uses hand gestures and tapping on things at times and they seem to know what he wants. It’s like they sense his will and read his body language.

    I can do some of it too but to a lesser extent. The cats know I will cater to their whims so I don’t have quite as much sway. I have a strong maternal instinct whereas Erik has that but also a strong paternal instinct.

    The cats respect and like both of us but they seem more eager to act upon Erik’s will.

    They come more often when he calls. They feel protected by both of us but they feel a bit more protected by Erik. I think that comes into play too.

    Erik is more like the cat dad and I am more like the cat mom. He specializes a bit more in providing structure and I specialize a bit more in catering to comforts 🙂

    Good topic (hope you don’t get tired of me saying that),

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

    • At least Jeff and I aren’t the only ones. It sounds like your respective relationships with the cats are very much like the way my husband and I vary in how we relate to Monty and how he responds to us. It may really come down to gender differences. A mom and a dad aren’t exactly the same, so why would they be when “parenting” furry kids?

      • Hi Ruth,

        Good point. I think that the gender difference – as it affects both human children and cats – is a bit of a blessing. It’s a relatively well-rounded style that gives the human children and cats the best of both worlds.

        That’s not to say that a single cat parent or two people of the same gender couldn’t do the same. I’m sure some can.

        But generally speaking, women tend to be motherly and men tend to be fatherly.

        =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

  3. I remembered this post when I was wrangling Marvin this morning. I have been feeding him less food overnight the last few nights because he seems to be getting kind of hefty. Maybe with winter setting in he is catching more mice. It’s hard to know, but I thought I’d help by letting him wait a bit for breakfast. Well, this morning I was a tad bit late getting outside to feed the cats. Mind you, it was 4:30 instead of 4AM! I usually start with the back garden cats out of habit. Well, they were both doing the slow walk with fur spiked, ducking slowly behind the patio furniture. I knew what that meant. Mr. Marvin had made his way to the back to scope out any food dishes. I never leave food back there at night because of skunks, possums and raccoons. I knew the only way to keep the peace was to walk out into the yard, 36 degrees out, me barefoot in a nightgown. I knew Marvin would follow me like a dog. And he did. Tail up, right against my legs as we made our way to the front porch and into the house where he likes to spend some time in the early morning eating, visiting with dog Daisy and getting some love. So, is it wrangling when I just utilize his natural instincts to follow?

    Meanwhile, Bigfoot is at the top of the stairs trying to wrangle me back up for our little morning ritual of reading and sketching.

    Someday, maybe Marvin will stay inside. I doubt it though.

    Who wrangles whom?

    • I think he might spend more time inside, I really do. He sure sounds like he’s enjoying life. It’s nice to hear about him again 🙂

      I can usually ask my cats to come or go or whatever just by tone of voice. They are used to it and they know if somethings worth it by my tone of voice – and I know if its worth it for them so it all works out in the end. They know if there’s nothing iin it for them and its just what I want, and sometimes they oblige and sometimes not. Depends if they are busy or not 🙂

      • I hope so. He is welcomed to rule the roost if he chooses. I just don’t know how the ‘marking the territory’ thing will go. He does move around in the other cats territory, and they fear him but for no reason. I can see he is as nervous as they are. He regularly marks his area by the wall of the front where his thermal bed is laid under the bushes (different than his electrically heated bed) and he seems possessive of the territory, yet cognizant of the back garden cat territory. I don’t know. It is all a study isn’t it? Especially when you are dealing with free roaming cats who can’t decide if in or out is better.

        My goal in life is to sometime stroke my beautiful Yellow cat and have her surrender to the love. Meanwhile, we have an understanding. Good enough.

  4. Our last rescue “Scarlett O’Hair” is an inside cat only, sometimes she manages to “escape” thru front door of foyer, I can call her & try to coax her to come back in, NOTHING doing. But my son simply calls out “Scarlett, get in here” & within seconds she’s back in the house.
    Can’t figure it out, no hollering/screaming just a simple “Get back in here”
    keenpetite
    southeast arizona (USA)

    • Interesting. It seems that your son has trained her with the sound of his voice. I can do the same in some ways with my cat Charlie. It is about a close connection with the cat and a voice that pushes the right psychological button.

      • Michael;
        That never entered my female mind, guess with cats included a person needs to know what buttons to push & when, psychologically that is. It’s very impressive how or not cats react to certain tones of voice. Actually I believe they train us not vice-versa but cats are still our favorite pets, loving, loyal, capricious & they know exactly what they want, where & how. Scarlett O’Hair will lead me to where she wants to eat her canned food; enjoys short walks wearing harness & leash, will be 9 yrs old April 2013
        keenpetite
        southeast arizona (USA)
        keenpetite

        • I agree, keenpetite, that cats train us to train them. In other words we learn from their responses and demands what motivates them. I think sounds, cat teases and food are the key tools of the trade. Clicker training is a recognition that sound plays an important role in training. But, yes, there is more cat training human going on than human training cat.

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