Archive for the 'Cat Training/Teaching' Category
We use the term “Cat Scratch Reconditioning” to explain the process of redirecting natural, healthy cat scratch practice from “claws off” scratch surfaces to “claws on” designated scratch surfaces within a shared home environment with the use of pawsitive reward and reinforcement through repetition.
So what is the basis of Cat Scratch Reconditioning?
Let’s start by clarifying what IT ISN’T:
Cat Scratch Reconditioning IS NOT about imposing your will on another being; it is not about demanding that another being change to suit your needs or make you more comfortable at the expense of their own comfort; it is not about a hierarchal relationship in which you are the top cat roosting on a perch of superiority; it is not about ‘training’ a being to purrform on demand; it is not about another relenting to your control in order to avoid a negative consequence; it is not about ‘breaking another beings spirit’ in order to make them subservient; it is not about becoming the Top Cat, Leader of the Pride, King Kindle, Clowder Commander, Lord Litter or Princess Pounce; it is not a game of power and intimidation; it is not meant to be a tug of war to determine whether human or feline is ‘in control’.
What IT IS:
Cat Scratch Reconditioning IS about greeting your cat on a platform of equanimity; it’s about having an understanding of your feline family member and the species-specific needs associated with health, well-being, and thriving; it’s about having an appreciation for their purrescence, their contribution, and their unique expression; it’s about working WITH your cat in creating a mutually beneficial home environment that addresses the species-specific needs associated with you both; it’s about providing inspurration, incentives, and rewards that are linked to coordination and behavior; it’s about developing pawsitive associations between you, behavior, outcomes, and them; it’s about supporting the natural inclinations of your cat, their pawticular purreferences, and their unique purrsonalities; it’s about embracing the reality that cats scratch as a natural, healthy form of communication, hygiene, exercise, and play; it’s about taking that knowledge and providing strategically placed scratch outlets throughout the home that provide them with an opportunity for expression; it’s about providing them with consistent assistance in identifying and utilizing the scratch surfaces that were designed and designated with them in mind; it’s about integrating natural cat scratching behavior into the home environment in the interest of claw retention and interior preservation; it’s about creating, discovering and utilizing resources, products and information that support claw retention initiatives; it’s about mapping out purrsonal space, setting boundaries, and assisting each home inhabitant in establishing their ‘place’ within the family structure; it’s about the purrfect collaboration where human and feline actually SEE each other and establish a form of interaction, interdependence, and coexistence that benefits both.
Imagine the following scenario:
You’ve volunteered for a social experiment hosted by a nearby college or university. You agree to be isolated in a contained space for a 4 to 8 week period. The space is equipped with basic necessities such as a bathroom and a compact refrigerator with snacks and beverages as well as a few nonessential elements like a few windows overlooking campus and a couple of pieces of furniture such as a bed, desk, bean bag chair, a knotted rope hanging in the middle of the room, a light, plants, and a rubber bouncing ball. You are not provided with any communication outlets: No cell phone; No laptop; No paper; No pens or pencils; No television; No radio; No magazines; No books. However, a Research Assistant (known as RA from here on out) will check on you briefly first thing in the morning and provide you with breakfast; noon to provide you with lunch; late afternoon/early evening to provide you with supper; and around 10:00 pm before lights out leaving you to your own devices for the duration of the night.
At first, you find your accommodations to be an oasis from the accelerated pace of your life, the potential hazards and threats associated with the outside world, and the ever present noise and distractions constantly calling for your attention. The first few days are bliss. It’s nice and quiet except for the occasional sound of the air condition blowing through the duct work. The first day you snooze off and on; enjoy the warm delicious meals that are provided on schedule; and enjoy an occasional look out the window at the activity below. By day three, you’re feeling rested, refreshed and revitalized. You decide to release that pent up energy in the great room by swinging from the rope attached to the vaulted ceiling in the middle of the room. You climb up and down the rope, you swing from side to side, you challenge yourself by swinging high enough to touch an imperfection on the ceiling. You’re occupied for a few hours. Day four, you begin to incorporate the rubber bouncing ball into your day. You begin by bouncing the ball up and down, then against the wall, then challenge yourself by creating games like ‘how fast can I bounce this ball’; ‘bouncing the ball and catching under your chin or behind your neck’; or ‘throwing the ball at a target’. By day five, you’ve pulled the mattress into the large room and positioned it so you can fling yourself from the rope and onto the soft cushion. By day seven, boredom is setting in and you notice that you long for human interaction, communication, and companionship. You place your finger tips on the elevated window seal, pull yourself up and attempt to catch the attention of those passing below to no avail, they cannot see or hear you. Although you find yourself looking forward to the visits from the RA, they are brief, hurried, and you often feel like you’re being talked AT instead of talked TO. You can’t understand what the RA is saying. It’s a language you can’t understand. You attempt to make a connection by noticing and responding to body movements, postures, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures.
“Cat scratching is a natural form of self-expression for felines that satisfies multiple needs associated with health and well-being. Scratching provides a natural manicure that strips the outer sheath or layer of the claw for hygienic purposes; allows stretching of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons for health and vitality; provides an outlet for responding to stress and crisis; and provides an enjoyable species-specific activity associated with excitement and play.”
This list was created to assist those who need solutions to cat scratching behavior and alternatives to declawing. Our goal is to create an exhaustive list so that people have the information necessary to understand natural healthy cat scratch behavior and practice while feeling empowered and adept at redirecting it to designated scratch surfaces.
NOTE: This list is long and varied in recognition of cat’s individual purrsonalities, pawticular purreferences, and unique cat scratch expressions and impressions. Another words, some of these solutions will work with your cat while others will not. The purrpose is to offer sufficient pawsibilities that can be chosen and implemented based on your specific needs, the needs of your cat, and the needs of your interspecies household. Although we’re wanting to collect 100 pawsibilities, we want people to understand that we’re not suggesting that you use all of these with one cat. We do suggest that people observe their feline family members behavior for cues and clues in order to determine the solutions that will be most effective and functional in their particular cohabitation situation. Although it won’t be necessary for a person to employ every option, solution, or intervention mentioned in the list…more pawsibilities ensure that some solution can be found for any cat, any purrson, and any household.
15. Your cat calls 9-1-1
14. Your cat attempts a vertical 3-foot scratch and falls whiskers first into the 2-foot post
13. The post mysteriously shows up at the neighborhood block sale
12. The texture of the post creeps your cat out (evident by the frenzied self-cleaning after pawing)
11. Your cat circles the new post and then reminds you that he’s a horizontal scratcher not a vertical scratcher
10. Your cat has staring matches with the post from across the room
9. Visitors see the post and exclaim, “What IS that ugly thing?”
8. Your pawsitive reward attempts have your cat thinking the post is a treat dispenser not a scratch outlet
7. The pawsitive reward supply has been exhausted and still no scratch or interest in the post
6. The couch continues to get more paw and claw action then the post
4. Your cat passes off the post to the dog as a fire hydrant
3. Your feline family members show up at the PAW-N Shop with the post in tow
2. You notice neighborhood cats looking at the post through the window shaking their heads
1. First Scratch…Wobble, Wobble…Thump!
This is Kitten. Kitten lives next door to the CatAWhack Crew. Kitten is a vertical scratcher. He purrfers the sides of couches and chairs. Although his human provided him with a scratching post, it did not dissuade him from scratching the furniture. Why? Because the scratching post merely provided a scratch outlet…It did not establish a designated space that set up the conditions for the creation of territorial boundaries and scratch perimeters within an inter-species household. His human didn’t know what to do. The veterinarian offered no information about cat behavior, cat scratch reconditioning, nail trimming, or alternatives to declawing. Kitten was scheduled for a declawing procedure at the same time that he was to be neutered.
When the CatAWhack Crew discovered that Kitten was three days away from being declawed, they sent Bret with the new CatAWhack Unit. Kitten’s human was totally unaware that declawing was an amputation of the distal toe digits. However, with this new information, she was open to considering other options. The following was proposed:
- A 14 day period to help Kitten change his established scratch practice (It takes 14 days to break a habit or change a behavior)
- Washing former scratching haunts with a pet odor remover and covering with double-sided tape
- Positioning the CatAWhack Unit next to former scratching haunts to encourage transfer of scratch practice to the designated surfaces of the unit
- Positioning the CatAWhack Scratch Panel in a vertical position since Kitten purrferred the sides of furniture
- Reinforcing scratch practice on the CatAWhack Unit by providing rewards that appealed to Kitten’s pawticular purreferences (treats, catnip, affection, pawsitive praise, play time)
- Gradually moving the CatAWhack Unit away from the former scratching haunts and toward a more permanent location in order to establish Kitten’s purrsonalized designated space creation within the home environment
- Placing the CatAWhack Unit in front of a window with a view for environmental enrichment; mental stimulation; in order to stimulate Kitten’s predatory claw sharpening preparation in response to outdoor critters (birds, squirrels, rabbits)
- Ensuring that Kitten’s daily living activities (eating, drinking, sleeping, snacking, playing, scratching) occurred on or around the CatAWhack Unit Space Creation. This created pawsitive associations with the space and made natural recurrent scent placement a reinforcer for return visits and repeat purrformances.
- Removing double sided tape or Sofa Savers from furniture after new scratch practice was established.
- Placing citrus scents on or around old scratching haunts to make these areas less desirable and therefor deterring a potential cat scratch relapse (i.e., orange rinds;natural orange spray; bitter apple sprays or repellents) NOTE: If spraying directly on furniture, rugs, or carpets, be sure and test on an unseen area before applying
- If Kitten experienced a relapse and began scratching the furniture, exploring what may have triggered the behavior: Was there anything new or different in the environment? Did something such as a loud noise startle or spook Kitten when he was occupying his designated space or practicing his scratch behavior? Was Kitten bored?
- Consider moving the CatAWhack Unit occasionally (every 4-6 months) to another desirable location to keep Kitten engaged, curious, and stimulated OR reconfigure the CatAWhack Unit by moving the scratch panel, bed, or leaf toy OR introduce a new component such as a box, a blanket over half of the unit, or a new toy
When Bret checked in with Kitten’s human at the end of the 14-day period, she reported that Kitten was scratching the CatAWhack exclusively. YES! Way to go Kitten!
Check out these pics of Kitten (When he received his CatAWhack; got a reward for using his CatAWhack; and weeks later as he perches on his CatAWhack and looks out the window):
Sometimes people think that they have done everything that they can do to redirect scratch practice and if unsuccessful seek declawing amputation procedures as a last resort.
How would a veterinarian know if someone had actually tried EVERYTHING? How would the person seeking the procedure know if they had, in fact, tried EVERYTHING?
Sometimes decisions are made out of frustration, a sense of powerlessness, and a desperate need for a solution.
I want to develop an intervention checklist that peeps can utilize, kind of a step-by-step process, to determine if they have, in fact, tried EVERYTHING.
If they are armed with a multitude of potential solutions, one is bound to be effective with their particular feline family member resulting in one less amputation procedure and one more feline who remains intact – toes, paws, claws and all.
I need your help in compiling this list. It may be something that could be utilized at veterinarian offices and adoption centers across the country. Please forward to others and encourage comments.
CatAWhacka-Whoo-Whoo Thank You!
“Domestic cats are flexible on territory and it depends on us.”
We love this statement by Michael Broad at Pictures of Cats. We refer to territorial signaling and marking regarding scratch behavior and established scratch practice. Territorial signaling is a cat’s way of communicating their presence in an area, creating boundaries, establishing personal space within an open or contained environment. Domestic cats introduced into a new home environment will make attempts to discover their place through exploration and in response to the following: interactions with other home inhabitants; safety, security, and sustenance (sleeping quarters, food, water); activities of daily life and environmental enrichment.
As a cat, I will use various communication methods to demonstrate my intent. I’ll meow and reveal body language to receive food, treats, affection, interaction. I’ll scratch to show you the perimeter, areas, and various locations that I have claimed as my own unless you provide me with incentives that appeal to my pawticular purreferences; provide me with inspurration and show me the benefits of sharing space and responding to your cues; and demonstrate the function and utility of forming seen and unseen boundaries within a mixed species household. All home inhabitants have to discover their identity, purrpose, role within the family structure. Help your feline family members get acclimated by appealing to their sensibilities, the way that they see the world, their natural inclinations. Cats are highly intelligent. It has to make sense to acquire the cooperation of a cat. If it doesn’t, forget about it!
The purpose of cat scratch reconditioning is to redirect, reward, and reinforce natural cat scratching behavior to designated “claws on” surfaces. In order to turn your indiscriminate scratcher into a discerning discriminate scratcher you must provide pawsitive incentives that appeal to your feline family member’s pawticular purreferences.
Observe your cat for cues.
What is her preferred scratching object or surface?
What texture(s) does he prefer (fabric; wood; window screen; upholstery; rugs/carpet; mattress ticking)?
Where does she like to scratch (near entry ways; window sills; common living areas shared by the rest of the family; etc.)?
Does she like to scratch vertically, horizontally, or on angled surfaces (rugs = horizontal; draperies or sides of furniture = vertical; variation of the two = angled)?
Does he scratch at pawticular times of the day (dawn, dusk, middle of the night); after specific activities (waking from sleep, eating, playing); or after seeing other felines, birds, squirrels, interacting with the family dog, etc. (within the home, seen through windows, scent detection through window screens or under doors)?
Answers to these questions will help you determine what type of scratch surfaces will be effective; where to place; and the best times to consistently produce the reward and reinforce the scratch behavior to the designated scratch surfaces.
Hey fellow felines and peeps! The CatAWhack Raffle continues. We’re in our second week and we get more excited with each passing day knowing that some lucky local cat will be scratching, sleeping, and playing on their very own CatAWhack on 02/17/2011.
Where are we?
Our second venue 1/24/11 to 1/29/11:
Lizzi & Rocco’s Natural Pet Market
503 East Nifong, Suite J
Rockbridge Shopping Center Next to Hy-Vee
A celebratory CatAWhacka-Whoo-Whoo Thank You to Jessica & Kyle Schlosser for welcoming us into their magnificent market! Whoo! Whoo!
Hey fellow felines! Get ready to inspire your humans to sneak a peek at the NEW CatAWhack Mini Unit.
We’ll be placing a unit at a different venue each week in Columbia, Missouri beginning 1/17/11 @ 1:00 pm thru 2/17/11 @ 1:00 pm. Peeps will have the opportunity to buy raffle tickets priced at $5.00 for 3 chances; $10.00 for 6 chances; or $15.00 for 9 chances or choose to purchase the multi-functional CatAWhack Mini for only $288.88.
Our first venue 1/17/11 to 1/24/11:
Horton Animal Hospital
2200 Chapel Plaza Court
A big CatAWhacka-Whoo-Whoo Thank You to Dr. Susan Sczepanski, Dr. Jennifer Reisdorf, Dr. Lindsay Dorr, and all the staff at Horton who allowed us to make our public debut at their facility. Great peeps for paws!
Who will be the first lucky feline to do the CatAWhack scratch?
We leave you with some snap shots of the rigorous testing and quality assurance checks performed by the three finicky feline inspectors of the CatAWhack Crew. Ah, memories of the product development process: