Practical feline behaviour understanding cat behaviour and improving welfare

(Axel Boer) #1
106 Chapter 7

● When using a secondary or conditioned reinforcer this can be used ‘instantly’ at
the same time as the animal performs the behaviour, or immediately after, thereby
signalling clearly to the animal exactly what is wanted.
● This can also be convenient for the trainer because he or she only needs to have
immediate access to the secondary reinforcer.

Disadvantages of this training:

● The trainer’s timing needs to be good to avoid marking and unintentionally rein-
forcing the wrong behaviour.
● A ‘clicker’ is commonly used for secondary reinforcement training of dogs and
other animals but this may not be so suitable for cats (see Box 7.3).


Obviously, an animal needs to perform a behaviour before we can reinforce it.
Physically forcing the animal into a place or position does not teach it anything because
it needs to physically carry out the action itself in order to learn how to do it again.
Some behaviours occur spontaneously, but then we might have to wait around a long
time for the cat to do what we want it to. The chances that the behaviour will be per-
formed when we start training can be increased by encouraging (luring) the cat to do
what we want by using treats or other enticements (Fig. 7.2).

Practical feline examples

● We may want to teach the cat to lie down and relax on a specific mat or cat bed. We may
start by encouraging the cat to go in the right direction by throwing treats onto, or close
to, the bed or by luring the cat onto the mat using wet food on the end of a long spoon.
● Play and toys can also be used as lures. For example, if training a cat to use a cat
flap a favourite toy can be used to lure the cat through the cat flap from one side
to the other. Play, however, would not be the best thing to use in the previous
example if the intention is to teach the cat to relax.

Fig. 7.2. Luring can be
adapted to be used as a
hand signal that can also
be later paired with a verbal
‘command’, e.g. ‘sit’.
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