CAT'S CORNER

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Rewards and Reprimands

Praising and reprimanding play a big role in educating your kitten. Praise can be expressed with loving words, a tender pat, or sometimes even with treats (because, as we all know, the way to the heart is through the stomach).

However, in contrast to dogs, cats can't be motivated with treats to do tricks or fetch things on request. Either she'll do it or she won't. And she'll do it only when she wants to. Cats are strongly inclined towards individualism. Most cats won't be prepared to allow themselves to be trained.

However, even little individualists will appreciate an extra treat every now and then. Whatever snack you give your kitten, remember not to overdo it, as snacks contain calories, and your kitten could become overweight.

If you need to reprimand your cat for annoying or problematic behavior (such as scratching furniture or walking on the dinner table), you'll have to think like a cat to get results. You'll get no response from your cat other than confusion if you try to reprimand him for something he did hours ago. Also, cats don't respond to reprimands like dogs, because they are more independent. They are, however, social animals, and briefly "shunning" or isolating your cat from the rest of the household will get better results than yelling. You may try a spray bottle of room temperature water, or a sharp "hissing" sound. Of course, a cat should never be reprimanded physically with swatting or hitting. Not only do they not understand this type of reprimand, it can quickly break the bond of trust and lead to even more problem behaviors.

To get the best results, you'll need to catch him in the act, remove him from the location of the bad behavior, offer a gruff "no" or hiss, and try to demonstrate the correct behavior. With problem scratching, move him to his scratching post and praise him indulgently when he uses the post instead of the sofa. This associates positive reinforcement with positive behavior. You may also want to place them in a safe, closed room or their cat carrier for 5-10 minutes, away from toys and family members, to get your point across.

Certain types of persistent bad behavior can also be signs of health problems. For instance, urinating away from the litter box may be an indication of a urinary tract infection. If you're not sure whether his behavior is just a bad habit that needs correcting, or something more serious, contact your vet immediately.

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