Today is International Cat Day 2021. It is observed on August 8 every year. What does it mean to cat owners on the planet? How should it impact them? Does it impact them? I tend to ignore it but I shouldn’t. This is why I am writing this short article. It forces me to read up about International Cat Day. There is a short entry in Wikipedia which tells me that it was created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Today it is managed by International Cat Care which is a not-for-profit British organisation concerned with improving cat welfare.
On this day people should be more aware of cat welfare. The idea is to raise awareness about the needs of domestic, stray and feral cats. Does that translate to tangible efforts? That’s my question. Does it change anything? I’m being realistic because I’m not sure that it does. It is worth trying though.
“If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.” — Mark Twain
That said, in visiting the International Cat Care (ICC) website I noticed that the theme on this day is “to be cat curious”. I’m going to interpret this to mean that people should be more involved with their cat. They should be asking questions about why their cat does certain things. The intention is that when you are curious about your cat you are more likely to create an environment which is suitable for them. You are more likely to interact with your cat, and in finding out more, both you and your cat will benefit.
I think the idea is that some cat owners can be a little bit too distant from their cat because they believe that cats are independent-minded. Domestic cats are convenient in the modern world because they require less maintenance than dogs. This is one reason why people adopt them. It’s a slightly misplaced thought because domestic cats need as much input from their human guardian as dogs if you want to maximise their happiness.
ICC SAY that 95% of cat owners want more advice on training their cat. That’s an interesting statistic. Being curious about your cat will motivate you to train her. You don’t have to formally train her with a clicker. A lot of interactions with domestic cats are a form of training both for the person and cat. It’s good for people to be aware of this.
For example, when you come home your cat will be pleased to see you. If you feed them at that moment, you give them a reward. This is an example of training by positive reinforcement. Your cat will associate you coming home with getting a nice treat. They will anticipate it. And in providing the treat, you also train yourself. Mutual training, I call it. When you call her, she’ll recognise the sound of her name. If you want her to come on demand provide a reward; a cuddle and warm sounds will do. More positive reinforcement training.
All training is by positive reinforcement. I think that most people know this by now. Negative reinforcement is another term to mean punishment, and it is a no-no.
ICC are providing “free positive cat carrier training advice”. They say that a lot of people want to learn how to get their cat into a cat carrier. They provide the advice in emails. That’s fine but to be perfectly frank I’m not sure that you need to train your cat to get into a cat carrier. We know that domestic cats don’t want to get into cat carriers, normally. However, the best way to get them in is the ambush technique which you can read about by clicking on this link. It unfailingly works for me.
However, if you want to make it easier for your cat to get into a carrier, they need to associate it with something nice. Therefore, you leave it around the home and make it into a little den or nest for them with some food treats. They will learn that it is a nice place to rest in, rather than a place in which they are confined when they go to a veterinarian. It’s about a positive association between an object and something nice. Combine that with the ambush technique and you’re home and dry. A top-loading cat carrier with plenty of space to insert your cat is far easier to use than the modern, small, under-the-aeroplane-seat type carrier.
It seems that ICC have focused on strengthening the intimacy between human and cat on this International Cat Day 2021. This must be a good idea because the old adage applies: the more you put in the more you get out. The closer you become to your cat the more each trains the other and the more enjoyment both take from the relationship.
SOME MORE ON TRAINING: