April 23, 2016 – New Zealand Animal behaviourist Lynne O’Malley, who specialises in cat behaviour says cats can be trained – but draws the line at herding them.

“People don’t realise you can get help with cat training and behaviour,” Lynne said, adding, “If you have a cat in your life, you have to think about what your cat needs and make some adjustments.

“If you are prepared to have a baby, you’ve got to meet its needs. You have to take time out and spend time with them and look after them and it’s no different to having an animal. You can’t just put them in a corner and expect them to behave perfectly without putting any input into them,” Lynne said.

Cat owners need to provide outlets for a cat’s natural behaviour, and Lynne warned that if cat owners in the United States and Canada are thinking of declawing their cat, then one of its natural behaviours is being curtailed and that behavioural problems will manifest in other ways, such as biting.

“Cats scratch and that’s what cats do, and that’s normal behaviour for them, but some people don’t want to deal with it,” Lynne said.

“Find suitable outlets for cats and offer them scratching areas that actually attract them and that they want to use.”

When it comes to scratching posts, there are a lot on the market which are too flimsy and aren’t really suitable. Scratching posts need to be strong and sturdy and a cat should be able to reach to full height while using it without it moving. A lot of cats like the vertical scratchers such as the cardboard and rope ones. Have them throughout the house. Scratchers and scratching help condition cats nails and it’s also a marking behaviour as well. If a cat is scratching throughout the house it can be caused by stress, or it could simply be territorial marking, Lynne said.

If your cat is doing something you dislike, such as scratching furniture, there are ways to make them use the scratching tools. Lynne uses distraction and redirection methods: distracting them from scratching furniture or where you don’t want them to be, and redirecting them to where they do have scratching outlets.

Lynne also uses clickers as a training tool for cats. Cats will respond to clicker training if the treat or reward is worth something to them.

Lynne says that working out what’s going on in your cat’s environment is important: either the cat is stressed or something in their environment isn’t working for them.

“People don’t think about why their animals are behaving badly. Put some thought into it, and work with your animal to get right,” Lynne advised.

“Cats are creatures of routine: they like the security it gives, and generally are very happy to follow one. They like to predict their environment.

“Cats are a separate species from us and they perceive the world differently from us, so take the time to learn more about your animal and their natural behaviours.”

To contact Lynne, click on the link below:

Photo of Tricks using her scratching post.

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