Training Cats: Comparing Dog Training And Human Training

Training a cat to come on command with positive reinforcement and clicker

If a person feels they must train their cat it should be reward based. I don’t believe in deliberate cat training — Image: Training a cat to come on command with positive reinforcement and clicker.

Punishing techniques on dogs has much the same effect as it has when physical punishment is applied to children, which is an increase in aggressive behaviour generally and specifically increased aggression towards the individual who is applying the punishment.

I think it is fair to conclude that training by negative reinforcement or punishment whether it be a cat, dog, or a child results in an increase in aggressive behaviour, to varying degrees, in the recipient of the training, dependent upon the sort of punishment and the force applied. Therefore, we should conclude, that the best way of training a cat (if you believe that training a cat is necessary and I don’t) is to use positive reinforcement, meaning reward-based training.

With respect to dog training, there is a school of thought which says that the dog’s owner needs to be the pack leader or the alpha dog using physical manipulations, threats and intimidation in order to achieve that status. The classic “sharp leash corrections” are meant to cause discomfort to the dog.

In a study about the parenting and training of children scientists looked at the effects of spanking. When children aged 3 were spanked more than twice in the month before the study began, the odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 increased by 50%. There have been other reports on children and punishment and apparently they all conclude that parents should not spank children under any circumstances. Also, negative reinforcement (punishment) becomes less effective with repeated use. The child outgrows it.

I believe that we can call upon studies about the training of dogs and children to counter any arguments amongst cat behaviourists and cat owners who say that punishment is an effective way to train a cat to do what a person wants her to do. I like to add the simple fact that when a person trains a cat they are simply conditioning a cat to behave in a way which pleases them but which may be unnatural.

If studies on the training of dogs and children indicate that punishment, when carried out at a certain level, carries the risk of the recipient becoming aggressive then I believe that this is a reinforcing argument that punishment as a form of training of a cat is incorrect and should never be carried out.

David Ryan, the author of “Dogs That Bite and Fight“, says

The sad thing is, there is no need that these methods. We have all the knowledge for doing it in a positive way.

Positive reinforcement is the way to produce a playful and happy dog, a self-confident and sociable child and a cat who is able to confidently interact with his or her human companion. On the Internet, there is quite a lot of discussion about so-called “crazy cats” meaning cats that are aggressive and people cannot understand why. You can see how the relationship can deteriorate between cat and person if the person punishes a cat whereupon the cat gradually becomes more and more aggressive with a subsequent human response that demands more punishment and so the cycle continues until the relationship is broken and the cat abandoned at a shelter where he is euthanised having been branded violent and aggressive.

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Training Cats: Comparing Dog Training And Human Training — 6 Comments

  1. Well I don’t believe in training cats, they are free spirits and we have no right to force them to do what we want them to unless it’s for their own good.
    There is no such thing as a bad cat, but there are bad cat caretakers!
    Yes we have to set boundaries for their own sake, such as keeping them safe and our boyz (and all the cats we’ve ever had)just learned by habit they have to stay in after dark and when no one is home.
    But give and take a bit, if they stay out a bit late now and again then it’s acceptable because we humans never get everything right and we do know right from wrong.
    Cats are cats and follow cats instincts, what is that saying ‘You can take a cat out of the wild but you can’t take the wild out of a cat’ and we shouldn’t even try.

  2. Training should be no more than spending the time with companion animals that they need and letting their instincts lead them.
    Cats will, instinctively, know to go to a litter box when shown where it is. Dogs will accept a leash and do their business outside if we take the time to help them.
    If training means that any pet will follow my demands or perform unnatural acts, then I need not be their guardian.

  3. Yep i dont think you could train a cat. They seem to train you. Im finding with jasmin i dont have to do anything shes been running around the house at full speed. Although other cats arent too impressed i think some of them are getting used to her presence well everyone apart from ozzie. I do tend think hes really jealous. Shes very assertive and doesnt worry if she gets too close. SHe had her first wander outside today by accident. Had a lovely run though the garden and seemed to really enjoy it. Was nice to see her enjoying it.

    • An article in the newspaper that I read, daily, referred to a study about training dogs using punishment and the conclusion was that it is not a good way to train a dog yet, as far as I am aware, most people train dogs through mild forms of punishment at least. And the way we train dogs helps us decide how to train other animals including the domestic cat which then prompted me to write the article. I hate the idea of punishing cats as a way to train them.

  4. Once I did a Cats Protection stall at a vet practice during an open day and the vet had organised a display of clicker training for dogs as part of the entertainment, oh I just hated it, I felt so angry that those animals were trained to respond not to a voice but to a stupid noise made with a bit of tin (or plastic or whatever it was made of)it seemed so cold and calculating as though the dogs were brainwashed to respond to the sound, which of course they were. I was so annoyed I couldn’t trust myself to speak to the self satisfied trainers afterwards. Now thinking about that regime being thrust onto a cat makes my blood literally boil, the thought that anyone should treat a free spirit in that way offends me very much. I’d like to make a pile of those damned clickers and get my heavy mallet and smash them into small coals (and it is heavy, I hit myself on the head with it one day so I should know!)

    • Oh I remember that day, it was a real whack! I kept looking at your eyes incase your pupils had gone big with brain damage, phew thankfully you were OK.
      I would like to smash all clickers to small coal too after I’d clicked them over and over again in the ‘trainers’ lugholes!

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