Cat Training: Yes You Can (And Should)
By Steven Appelbaum
It is common knowledge that dogs can be trained to do extraordinary things. Certainly most owners expect their dogs to learn some basic commands, and with a little patience and perseverance, owners also hope to address a variety of behavioral challenges.
According to Statista.com1, there are an estimated 89.9 million dogs in the United States. Thiws partially explains why the pet industry is so massive; how dog trainers can make a full–time living training dogs and why businesses like boarding facilities have been working with dog trainers for decades. It’s also why pet groomers and dog trainers should work together to create reciprocal referral relationships.
Yet, there is another animal kept as a pet in this country that outnumbers dogs. Again, according to Statista.com2, there are 94.2 million cats in the United States.
While cats may outnumber dogs, when it comes to perceptions about feline trainability, people have very different ideas. Common sentiments regarding cat training include: “You can’t train cats!”, “They don’t care about pleasing you”, “They’re not like dogs” and “What would you even train a cat to do?”
This perception is costly for cats and the people who love them. Shelter and rescue statistics illustrate part of the challenge. Roughly 3.9 million dogs wind up in shelters each year in this country. Many shelters have working relationships with dog trainers, and some even have training classes on site. Dog shelters have long understood the relationship between training and adoptability, not to mention reduced recidivism. Training helps dogs get adopted and stay in their forever homes. In some cases, it can prevent them from winding up in shelters in the first place.
Now, let’s look at the cat picture. Three point four million cats enter animal shelters per year and 1.4 million are euthanized each year. Yet for many, many years there was little discussion of training. Now as people are realizing cats are trainable and professional cat trainers are appearing, this trend is finally changing—which is great news!
Cats are extremely trainable. The key is understanding what motivates them and being clear on what types of behaviors they need to learn. When people think about training, most visualize obedience. This is where you lose some of them. After all, can you teach a cat to walk on a leash? If yes, what’s the point?
The truth is that cats can learn to walk on a leash, and being able to take them on walks allows you to give them exercise and get them used to responding to you in public. However, most owners are less interested in teaching them obedience than they are in addressing behavior problems, including such behaviors as litter box training, scratching furniture, accepting other cats and dogs, spraying and learning to go in a crate. This last one is critical. Many cat owners find it difficult, if not impossible, to take their cats to the veterinarian, groomer or boarding facility because they can’t get them in a crate. This is a perfect example of a teachable behavior.
For many cat owners, a well–trained feline is simply one who goes to the litter box, gets along with other pets in the home, doesn’t damage furniture, travels easily and comes when called. Every one of those behaviors is teachable!
This is relevant to anyone who offers boarding or grooming for cats. Start to search for cat trainers. Once you find them, reach out to them and begin to develop relationships in which all parties refer clients to each other. When done properly, such relationships are beneficial to all—and your cat–loving clients will thank you!
Steven Appelbaum is a professional animal trainer and founder of Animal Behavior College (ABC), a vocational school specializing in animal career training programs. ABC offers courses for people interested in becoming pet groomers, dog trainers, cat trainers, veterinary assistants and aquatics management specialists. They will be introducing a zookeeper assistant program in 2019. The school also teaches a variety of continuing education programs on subjects including; pet nutrition, pet massage, dog walking, pet sitting and training shelter dogs. Aside from managing ABC, Appelbaum works as a freelance author, lecturer and pet business consultant. For more information about Animal Behavior College, please visit the website at www.animalbehaviorcollege.com