Cat behavior & training

Yes, you CAN train your cat! Use positive reinforcement / rewards to encourage favorable behaviors. Avoid using punishment which does not work in cats and may make kitty afraid of you. Positive reinforcement includes food, toys, play, affection (petting, rubbing) and verbal praise. Be sure to reward kitty quickly, within 2 seconds of the positive behavior occurring.

Eliminating undesirable behaviors

If you come home and find that your cat has shredded the curtains, pushing the cat’s nose into the fabric and spanking will do NO good other than to confuse your cat, cause anxiety and possibly make him/her afraid of you. Instead, replace the unwanted behavior, with the desirable behavior, as follows:

  1. If you catch your cat in an unwanted act, sharply and loudly say his/her name, along with a sharp clap of your hands.
  2. Promptly direct your cat to the desirable behavior (taking him away from the curtains and putting him on his scratching post).
  3. Reward your cat for being on the post.
Use this same technique in other situations:

Jumping on the counter

  1. Make sure you don’t leave out any enticing tidbits!
  2. Since cats love being elevated, place cat trees or other elevated items around the house.
  3. Praise kitty whenever he/she is on the cat tree
  4. If kitty jumps on the counter, make a loud noise, then promptly remove him/her from the counter and place on the cat tree.
  5. Praise him/her or drop a food reward on the cat tree.

Scratching furniture

  1. Place scratching posts around the house, preferably in high traffic areas or near favorite sleeping spots.
  2. Play with kitty near the post, or rub catnip on it to make it more fun.
  3. Praise and pet kitty to constantly reinforce use of the post.
  4. If you catch kitty scratching the couch (or other furniture), make a loud, sharp noise
  5. Immediately redirect kitty to a post.
  6. Praise kitty and offer a food reward for being near the post.

Aggressive behavior

  1. If your cat plays too aggressively, redirect this behavior toward acceptable objects such as toys.
  2. Choose toys that your cat can wrestle with – a small stuffed animal – that your kitty can grab with both front legs.
  3. Drag the toy along the floor, throw it or rub on kitty’s belly so he’ll grab it from you.
  4. Use the toy whenever kitty starts acting aggressively toward you or displaying signs of aggression like pinning his/her ears back, crouching to pounce or forcefully flicking his/her tail.
  5. Initiate several play sessions with the toy throughout the day.


Teach your cat tricks by using a “target” such as a stick with a ball on the end. Hold the stick near kitty and when your cat touches it with his/her nose, give a food reward. The target can be used to guide the cat to do many tricks, such as jumping on or off a stool or through a hoop.

The Cat Practice Veterinary Nurse Dawn Hamill has trained her cats to perform tricks!
Click the links below to see them in action! 

Training to follow commands

Have fun with your kitty teaching basic commands. You’ll be surprised at what your kitty can learn!

Coming when called

  1. Use a food reward and slowly pass it by your cat’s face.
  2. As your cat begins to show interest, move the food a bit further so your cat has to follow, calling his/her name as you do.
  3. After your cat moves a short distance, let him/her eat the food.
  4. Repeat this sequence, having your cat come further each time before
    food is given.
  5. Once your cat repeatedly comes when called, phase out the food and use praise, petting, or playing instead.


  1. Watch for your cat to sit down and the instant he/she does,
    drop a food reward.
  2. If he/she doesn’t sit down and continues to circle you, hold the food over your cat‘s head, slowly moving it back toward his/her rear which will cause your cat to sit down to see the food better; then give the food.
  3. Back up and wait for your cat to approach again and when he/she sits, drop another reward. As you repeat this scenario, the length of time it takes the cat to sit down decreases.
  4. Add in command “sit” as your cat approaches and just before he/she sits down. One sitting give your
    cat a reward.
  5. Phase out the food. and use praise petting, or playing instead.