Training Your New Cat

Because of their independent nature, cats are often considered untrainable. They actually can be trained — just think of the lions and tigers in the circus. With a few helpful hints, you can train your cat to use the litter box, come when called, and scratch in only dedicated places.

Litter Box Training Is Easy

Most kittens and cats are easily litter box trained. If yours isn't trained yet, start as soon as you arrive home for the first time. Pick your cat up and place them in the litter box, then gently pick up their forepaws and scratch the litter. If they don’t respond, keep a close eye on them for the next couple of hours. If they look like they’re about to relieve themselves (many cats sniff and scratch the floor), place them in the litter box. When they’re finished, praise and pet them. Usually, just one or two lessons will do the trick.

Keep the Litter Clean

If your cat goes outside the litter box, your litter probably isn’t as tidy as they’d prefer. Make sure the litter box is clean and accessible. A good rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than the number of cats you have. For example, if you have two cats, then you should have three litter boxes throughout the house. If the problem persists, there might be an underlying health problem, so schedule a visit with the vet.

Don’t Let Your Cat Scratch You

If you let your cat scratch you, they’ll think it’s acceptable behavior and continue doing it. When your cat begins to scratch, let your hand go limp and say, "No!" Once they stop, praise them.

Introduce Your Cat to the Scratching Post

If your cat is scratching in an unwanted area, cover the area they usually scratch with a blanket or plastic sheeting. Then, place the scratching posts near the area. Avoid taking your cat’s paw and forcing them to scratch it. If you catch them scratching elsewhere, clap your hands, sternly say, "No!" and then put them back at the scratching post. To encourage them to use the post, scent it with catnip, play with toys around it, praise them or use treats as rewards. See our article “Scratching: A Natural Habit” for more tips.

Teach to Come When Called

Cats respond best to positive reinforcement. Food and a loving voice are excellent positive reinforcements, so begin at mealtime. Call your cat's name, and then add, "Come." The cat should be hungry and will respond simply in hopes of a meal. If you do this at every mealtime for a week, your cat will automatically come when you call even when it isn't mealtime.

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