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Training Your Cat.

typing kitten cartoon

Train my kitty, you say? That’s a laugh! Of course you don’t believe that your kitty could be trained. But if you think about it, your kitty is already trained. When you get home from work, who is sitting at the door waiting for you? Your kitty is trained to know that at a certain time of day, or perhaps a certain sound like the car pulling up or the elevator door opening, her favorite human is about to walk in the door. Every time you open the fridge, or lift up the tab on a tin of food, who comes running with an excited “meow?” It’s your kitty, already trained to associate those sounds with a delicious treat!

By using the same principals, you can even train your kitty to do things you want him to do. Cats are not as easy to train as dogs are, because dogs are pack animals and by instinct want to please their master, while cats are instinctually lone hunters and don’t have the instinct to please anyone other than themselves. However, using the principals of behavioral psychology, we can train our cats to perform simple commands by forming associations.

As you already know, your kitty is trained to come to the sound of a tin opening — she doesn’t know that the sound is a tin and the tin contains tuna; she merely has an association in her tiny pea brain between the sound and the tuna. You can also train your kitty to do things you might want a kitty to do on command, like come when you call, sit down (instead of run out the door when you get home), or get down off the counter. All you need is a noise-maker such as a clicker, a lot of treats, and a little bit of time and patience every day. First, you will train your cat to associate the sound of the clicker with getting a treat, and then you will be able to teach your cat to understand specific command words.20141007_105553

Training steps

1. Schedule your training session for ten to fifteen minutes a day, before kitty dinner time.

2. Sit with your kitty, the clicker, and the treats. Feed your kitty a treat while clicking the clicker, or click the clicker and then give him a treat.

3. Continue with clicker training every day for about a week. Your kitty should soon learn to associate the click with the treat.

4. Test time! Test your cat by clicking the clicker outside of your regularly scheduled training time, and see if he comes running.

5. Once your cat comes running automatically to the sound of the clicker, you are ready to start teaching commands!

Teaching your Cat to Come

This takes a little longer than the clicker training. You should continue to do your daily training sessions, and do them just before dinner time. A hungry kitty is a trainable kitty!

Your cat should already know his name. Use his name and the command “come” along with the clicker and treat to get your kitty to come on command. Always use the same word and the kitty’s name, or he might get confused. Here’s a scenario involving Baker of Spot the Kitty fame:

Baker’s human clicks the clicker and says, “Baker, come!” Baker knows the clicker is a sure road to a treat, so he comes running. Baker’s human gives him a delicious piece of salmon (Baker’s favourite!)
Baker follows his human around for a while, but soon gets sleepy and forgets about the salmon. Baker’s human then clicks the clicker from another part of the house, saying, “Baker, come!” Yay, more food! Baker scampers to where the click sound came from and gets another glorious piece of salmon!

After doing this a few times a day for several days, Baker’s human tries calling “Baker, come!” without clicking. By this time, Baker associates the sound of the command with the salmon, so he comes running. Baker’s human gives him a chunk of salmon and voila, a trained kitty!

Note: you must always give a kitty a treat for performing a command. As mentioned before, unlike dogs who will do what you want just to make you happy, a kitty will always and forever do what you want if he knows he will get a treat.

Training your Cat to Sit

A cat who will sit on command is a great parlour trick and a fantastic ice-breaker at parties, but it could also save your cat’s life. If your cats are like Baker, Lance, and Marigold of Spot the Kitty fame, they are always lurking around the door when you come in or go out, and if your kitty is as bold as Lance, he has already snuck out a few times and had to be chased down (or called back, if you have already taught him the command “Come!”)

However, if you get in the door and tell your trained cats to sit, they will dutifully sit on their fuzzy little butts until you release them with a nommy chunk of tuna.

Here is a scenario involving Lance of Spot the Kitty fame learning to sit on command:

Lance’s human brings Lance to the sofa or sits beside Lance on the floor, holding a tin of delicious tuna. Lance is a big fan of tuna, so he sticks around in the hopes of getting a morsel or two (or three, or, heck, maybe the whole tin).

First, Lance’s human holds a piece of tuna over Lance’s head, saying the strange words, “Sit, Lance.” As Lance moves his head up towards the tuna, his butt should, by proxy, move down, until he is sitting.
As soon as Lance is sitting, Lance’s human repeats, “Sit, Lance,” while clicking the clicker, and then immediately gives Lance the food.

Lance’s human does this several times until Lance is full from tuna. If Lance’s butt does not meet the ground, Lance’s human corrects this by gently petting him and at the same time pressing his rump down, while still holding the food over his head. Then a click, the words “Sit, Lance,” and the treat.

After several training sessions, Lance’s human tries saying “Sit, Lance,” without holding the tuna over Lance’s head or clicking the clicker. If Lance’s brain has made the association between the command, the action, and the reward, he will sit down. Now we know that Lance has completed his training to sit. However, if he just stands there swishing his tail and saying “Mew?” we must continue with the training for a few more sessions.

Other Commands

Using the same principals — the clicker, the treats, and the cat — with variations on the above procedures, you should be able to train your cat to get down, stay, speak, and possibly do other tricks, depending on how much time and patience you have and how much your cat loves treats.

The Spot the Kitty Cat Care Guide

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Before you actually acquire your cat, think long and hard about the commitment that awaits you. The rewards offered by having a full time companion are immeasurable, but so is the commitment required. Most cats live up to sixteen years and require daily care and attention. Also, they can cost a lot of money, especially when it comes to medical bills and moving expenses. If you are ready to make this commitment you will be fulfilled and appreciated by your new found fuzzy little cutie-pie fluff face. However, if you are unsure or not ready yet, there are a lot of smaller pets that you can own that require less care and commitment. For example, a hamster, mouse, or goldfish all make wonderful pets and may be the first step needed to learn about the responsibilities involved with pet ownership.

Step 1 – Acquiring your cat…

You’re all excited; today is the day you’ve been waiting for all this time. Today is the day you finally become a fully-fledged cat owner. Put your big boy/girl pants on and hold on to your hat because you are in for one heck of a ride.

When it comes to selecting the right cat breed there are a few things to consider: for instance, allergies and cat hair length. Generally speaking, the shorter the hair that the cat has, the less irritating it is to be around for allergy sufferers. Some cat breeds are found to be less allergenic than others. For instance, Siamese cats often cause little to no irritation to allergy sufferers.

Longer haired cats need to be brushed fairly often or they get painful clumps of hair that annoy them and make them grumpy when you try to hold them. They can also be quite uncomfortable in hot climates. Some breeds are more prone to certain cat diseases. For example, Persians tend to have more respiratory problems; in fact, some airlines will not carry them for this reason.

As well as the above considerations, make sure you pick a cat with the kind of temperament you can enjoy every day. If you enjoy cuddling, choose a kitty that you can pick up and hold for a prolonged period of time without it trying to squirm away or bite you. If you’re looking for a playmate, pick the most active kitty in the litter. If you have other animals in the house, you should pick a cat who is already used to being around other animal friends. Also, make sure that your cat is aesthetically pleasing to YOU: whether it has one eye, three legs and a stunted tail or if it has bad breath doesn’t matter as long as you like it, because ultimately it is your cat and you are the one who is going to be living with the little cutesy-wootsie-pie.

Now, you can go to a pet store and buy a fancy cat there, and that is all well and good, but please don’t overlook all the sad and lonely stray or abandoned cats left in shelters and SPCA-sponsored facilities in your area. You may also look for a friend whose cat has a litter of kittens, or check your local pet classifieds for people with kittens to give away. No matter where you choose your kitty, make sure that he/she is at least seven weeks old before you take it away from its mommy, because kittens need to be with their mommies until they are properly weaned in order to grow into strong, healthy, happy cats.

Step 2 – Getting the right supplies…

Before you bring your new kitty cat home, you are going to have to get some basic supplies. The most important things are a safety (quick release) collar for an ID tag/rabies tag, in case your kitty ever gets out of your home, kitty-friendly food and water bowls, and a litter box with kitty litter. It is ideal to get these items before you get your cat and have everything ready and waiting.

Make sure that there is some wiggle room when you put on the collar: you should be able to stick one or two fingers underneath. If you have a kitten, pay attention to the collar and loosen it as the kitty grows.

For food, talk to your vet about what you need to feed your cat. Keep in mind that cats are carnivores; though they do like to munch on a little grass or house plants from time to time, the majority of their food should be meat-based. If you can afford the more expensive cat food from the vet, great; if not then you can always opt for the supermarket brand. If you bring home a kitten, make sure you buy food that is produced specifically for kittens.

As far as the litter goes, there are a wide-range of kitty litters out there designed for different things. Get the litter that you think is best suited for your kitty, your home, and your budgetary needs. If you have a big house, you might need two litter boxes, and multi-cat households should have at least one box per cat.

When you first bring Fluffy home, put him/her down and walk him/her to the litter box. If he is still a kitten, show him how to use the litter by dragging his little paw through it a few times. If she is already a grown-up kitty, she will already be an expert in the area of kitty litter.

Sometimes when kitties don’t use their litter box to go potty, they are not trying to be mean or act up but perhaps do not like their litter substrate; if your kitty pees on your furniture instead of in the litter box, try changing types of litter. The problem could also be the box style. If it’s too enclosed, your cat might not like it; it gets quite stinky inside, and besides, cats like an open space for going potty where they can keep an eye on their surroundings.

When it comes to water, nothing beats tap water if your tap water is drinkable. If it is not drinkable, then use filtered or bottled water for your kitty. Make sure that your kitty always has a clean bowl full of fresh water, or else she can get a urinary tract infection and other health problems may develop. Never put their food and water dish by their kitty litter, because cats hate when you do that! In the wild, they would never eat food close to where they use the bathroom and it is against their natural instincts to do so.

Oh I almost forgot… Kitty treats! Never forget kitty treats! Kitties love kitty treats and will form a tight bond with you and whoever else gives them kitty treats.

Step 3 – The first few days of cat ownership…

First things first: take your new kitty to the vet for a checkup and get the new kitty entered into the system so that you have a place to take it if any problems arise. Your vet will inform you of the correct schedule for your cat’s vaccinations and if there are any unnoticed problems that need to be addressed.

After the vet visit, take your kitty home and let him explore his new environment and get used to the new surroundings. Letting it explore and smell everything is vital for allowing the cat to settle in. If you live in a very big house, you might want to limit your new kitty to a small area at first until he feels comfortable.

Show the kitty its litter box and make sure it is filled with litter. Any time you move the litter box to a different location, make sure you show the kitty the litter box by walking the kitty to the litter box and by putting the kitty inside the litter box so it knows that is where it is to go to the bathroom. Litter-box relocations should be done gradually, a few feet a day, or your kitty might get confused.

Give your kitty lots of food and water and show your kitty where its food and water are. Make sure that it has fresh water every day from now on and fresh, clean food. Check that leftover food doesn’t have gunky bits in it, because kitties like to spill their water dish into their food bowl. Some cat owners prefer to give their kitty unlimited access to dry food; however, some dry foods give you a daily feeding amount based on the size of your kitty. If your kitty seems to be getting fat, it would be a good idea to limit food to the amount recommended by the cat-food manufacturer. A kitty with a flap of tummy hanging down underneath when it stands up is considered to be overweight by vets.

Make sure you play with your kitty and give your kitty a little treat when she cuddles with you; this will train her to be as cuddly as possible and will help you to develop a friendship with the cat. If your cat wants to leave your embrace, let her leave, as the world is an exciting and new place to explore. Keep your cat indoors and do not let it outside until you know that it is safe — fully vaccinated and a safe outside environment to play in.

Kitty-proof your house: Make sure that your house is pet safe and there aren’t any exposed electrical outlets or wires that the cat can hurt themselves with. Also, make sure that all gift-wrap ribbon is securely put away, as cats love to eat this stuff, but it’s very harmful for them; if your cat does eat ribbon or string, take him to the vet.

Kitties love sleeping with their human. Put a soft blanket on your bed and have the kitty sleep there with you and try not to roll over and crush your kitty during the night.

Step 4 – Doctor, doctor give me the news, I’ve got a bad case of loving you!…

From here on in, it’s safe to say that you have a fairly good grasp of how to properly look after your new addition to the family. Now here comes the fun part: vet visits. I know that there is a lot of controversy out there regarding vaccinations and whether or not people are vaccinating their children and I do not want to get into that, but it is safe to say that vaccinations for kitty cats do not cause autism or any other developmental issues for the cat throughout the cat’s lifetime. So, regardless of your personal feelings towards vaccinations for your children, please do your kitty a solid and take them to your vet to get them vaccinated and dewormed as soon as they reach six weeks of age. You will have to take your cat back intermittently throughout its lifetime for booster shots. If you follow all the advice for keeping your kitty healthy and safe, you should have a pretty easy time of things regarding health and vet visits. However, if you do think your kitty is ill, for example, sneezing/runny nose, lethargic, not eating, or not pooping/peeing normally, then take him to the vet immediately. Cat diseases or problems can be lethal!

Step 5 – Enjoying the little fuzz fuzz head…

Now that you have done all of the above steps it is time to sit back, relax, and let the good times begin. Make sure you take lots of photos of your kitty doing silly things and share them on Spot the Kitty’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc… There are also a lot of fun community events that you can partake in now that you are a cat owner, but most importantly, don’t forget about Caturday, the day when you post your favourite photos of your cat to the internet.

Well, I have to hand it to you, choosing to own a kitty cat and have a living breathing cuddly sentient being as part of your life that you will enjoy and treat nicely means a lot to all of the people at Spot the Kitty HQ. We will be updating this guide periodically as new information and time becomes available. Thank you for reading and as always, if you have any questions or feedback for us, please contact us using our feedback form.

The Spot the Kitty Nail Cutting Guide

Step 1 – Preparing preparations for the purrrfect kitty cat prevents panicking…

The day of days is here: nail cutting day. For most cat owners, this is a very happy day as it means that the little rascal kitty will finally stop clawing at furniture and be less scratchy to play with. For cats, on the other hand, this day is dreaded as it means that they will no longer be able to claw at furniture or scratch their humans. By now you and your cat should be fairly comfortable with one another because in order to do this, trust and calmness is a must. However, it is important to establish a manicure routine with your cat from a young age so he/she will get used to it.

You will need:

  • A pair of nail clippers
  • A supply of your kitty’s favorite treats

    You can buy nail clippers from the vet that are specifically designed for trimming animal nails, or you can use household clippers (as long as they are clean, sharp, and in good working condition).

    Kitties love routine, so, if you choose a place to cut the kitties nails that you both find comfortable, you can use this spot again and again as this will establish a routine and will be less stressful on your cat when you cut their nails in the future. After finding a comfortable spot, give the kitty a treat and lay it on its back, paws up, on your lap like so…

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┬áStep 2 – The Cat owner’s Everest…

Now that your kitty cat is on its back and has been fed a treat, gently lift its paw and squeeze gently until the nail protrudes outwards and is fully exposed. Using your nail clippers, only clip the very tip of the nail, as clipping any deeper may expose the quick of the nail, which is very painful for the cat and can lead to infection. You can see the quick through the nail as the nails are translucent. The quick should be dark pink. Avoid cutting the quick. Give treats after you trim the nails on each paw and encourage your kitty with soothing words using the same tone of voice that you would to speak to a crying child.

If you do cut the quick, the nail will bleed. Stop the bleeding with a styptic stick or powder, which can be purchased at a drug store in the shaving section. Cornstarch can also be applied to a bleeding kitty nail.

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Step 3 – That wasn’t so hard, was it?

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Enjoy your accomplishment and give your kitty his or her favorite treat – hard treats or some tinned food – for being so brave! That is of course, after you give yourself a big pat on the back for doing what many people pay professional groomers to do.

Monitor your kitty cat and make sure to take him/her to the vet if there is any damage (bleeding, etc…) to their claws. Generally speaking, if you followed the steps then Fluffy should be fine.

Spot the Kitty Meow-vie Review – Gravity

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Gravity is an action movie starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and Ed Harris. It was released in 2013 to the delight of movie goers all over the world. The special effects sequences are amazing and serve as a reminder as to how far we’ve come as a species to provide realistically unsettling visuals that can create a visceral experience that is beyond this earth.

Meowvie Review

“Baker and Lance give Gravity two paws up. ‘It was amazing,’ says Baker. ‘Stuff was moving around on the screen the whole time. I was riveted!’ Lance adds, ‘There were a lot of surprising moments, such as loud noises or flashes of light, that kept me awake for the entire movie! A must-see for all kitties.'”

Well, there you have it folks. Stay tuned for upcoming reviews, tips, and kitty related information!

A Letter regarding Litter Boxes…

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Dear Baker,

Recently I’ve been getting these crazy urges to poop outside the box. I hop up onto my human’s bed and the first thing that pops into my mind is, “Here’s a good place to poop!” I know this is wrong, because the goldfish told me the previous cat of the house was kicked out for pooping outside the box. But the litter box is just so unappealing to me! What should I do?

Please help!

Your fan,

Fluffy, North Carolina

Dear Fluffy,

This “outside the box” dilemma is more common than you might think! First of all, you need to understand that there is nothing wrong with you. You aren’t a naughty or vindictive cat. You’re not trying to use psychology on your humans or punish them. It is possible that you have a urinary tract infection or other physical problem that is making it difficult to get to the litter box in time, so the first step is convincing your humans to take you to the vet.

If there is nothing wrong with your plumbing system, then the next step is to analyze the litter situation in your house. My humans once went on a vacation in Egypt to see the greatest cat of all time, the Sphinx! They report that while on a bus trip they were allowed out of the bus to use the bus-station bathroom, but were appalled at the state of the bathroom — no toilet, just a hole in the floor to squat over, no flusher, just a bucket of water and a scoop, no toilet paper, no soap, no towels, and the smell! My humans were not able to use this third-world plumbing nightmare, and decided to squat in the desert behind the building to do their business instead. Since that trip, they have been much more understanding about our cat litter plights and have provided us with litter boxes that we enjoy using.

If you think the litter in your house could use an upgrade, print off the information below and leave it somewhere your humans are likely to find it, such as on the fridge door or a pillow.

The Three Facets of Pleasant Pooping

1. Location

Your litter box should be easily accessible from all areas of the home and have a good view of the surrounding area.
Humans like to have the litter box hidden away, out of sight, and out of smell, perhaps thinking that cats, like their human friends, like to poop in privacy. But cats prefer to poop out in the open so that while they are in the very vulnerable position required, they can keep a wary eye on their surroundings. This is especially important to large wild cats like lions and pumas, but housecats have the same instincts as their wild cousins and like to be able to scan the house for intruders while squatting.
Plus, if the litter box is located in the basement behind the furnace, it might be too far for some cats, especially the elderly or young, to go when they hear the call of nature. A good litter box is an accessible litter box. If your house is very large, you may choose to have two litter boxes in different areas of the house, perhaps one upstairs and one downstairs, for example.

2. The Box

Litter boxes should be large and open with high sides to keep litter in, and a lower doorway area to allow easy access.
Humans prefer a covered box, to keep the smell from reaching their delicate noses, but they don’t always realize that the cat’s nose is even more delicate than theirs. A covered litter box is not pleasing to many cats. As well as for the reason mentioned above (personal safety), no cat wants to sit in a dark, stinky cave to do his business. The best way to keep the litter box from getting stinky is to remove poop every day and replace all litter at least once a week. A clean litter box doesn’t need a cover.
A multi-cat household should have more than one litter box, and these boxes should be strategically placed around the house. Some cats don’t mind sharing a litter box, but others prefer to have their own pooping territory. Also, some cats are impatient when it comes to pooping and will find another place to answer the call rather than wait their turn. A general rule is one box per cat plus one extra.
If your humans have had the same boxes available for your pooping pleasure for many years, they might just be getting old and scratched up, or permeated with a smell that will not wash out. I recommend purchasing new litter boxes from time to time.
While it is helpful to periodically clean the litter box, fresh water and a scrub with a brush will suffice. Most kitties will turn up their noses at the strong smell of Dettol, bleach, or Pinesol in the box.

3. The Litter

A decent layer, not too thick, of your substrate of choice will make pooping more pleasurable.
Some humans like a plain white toilet, while others prefer one with a wooden seat, fluffy seat cover, or even a seat heater. Once, my humans had a clear resin toilet seat with seashells and plastic fish inside. My point is, every cat has his preference when it comes to the litter he squats in. What is my personal favourite, you ask? Crystals. They absorb liquid and odour. Some cats prefer to dig in a smaller substrate and others prefer larger pieces. Humans seem to be fond of clumping litter, but not all cats are comfortable with digging through the lumps. The trick here is to try a variety of different litters until you find the one that you like most, and then stick to it. Multi-cat households might have different litters in different boxes to appeal to the varying personalities of those who will dig and squat in them.

Most cats prefer one and a half to two inches of litter. Too much litter in the box can be overwhelming.

Many cats are turned off by scented litters or air fresheners. Again, the scent of a clean, well-scooped litter box is most pleasing to a cat’s nose. If your litter of choice is not very good at hiding or eliminating odours, your humans should try sprinkling a thin layer of baking soda into the box before adding the litter.

Oddly, many humans do not like to have little bits of cat litter treaded throughout the house, although I personally find them decorative and fun to play with. The solution is to put a mat outside the litter box to catch bits from between the toes. My humans have a robot vacuum which picks up the stray bits of litter, and is fun to watch.

If your humans have tried everything listed above and you still feel the urge to poop outside the box, you may need to visit a cat behaviourist. Your vet should be able to hook you up. Good luck, and happy pooping!

Your pal,

Baker