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Training Your Pet

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Pets have been around for as long as man has been able to tame animals. They give us moral support, never ask questions and rarely answer back. All that they demand of us is a warm and dry place to stay, food for their bellies and a little bit of entertainment on a regular basis.

However, like children, pets need to be taught the basics and this entry does just that. Read on to find out how to keep your pet happy, healthy and hygienic.

How to Train Cats not to Scratch the Furniture

Cats have claws. Claws are made for killing and scratching. Below you will find some helpful hints on how to prevent your beloved moggy from shredding your prized furniture to pieces.

  1. Have some cat-happy scratching posts in every room of the house. Cats have the urge to scratch whenever they get up or wake up from a nap as it helps them stretch. Most cats prefer scratching posts with looser material, as opposed to the tight carpet on most store-bought posts. You can build your own very cheaply with lumber, nails/hammer or screws/driver, and assorted carpet and upholstery fabric remnants.

  2. Spray all scratching posts with catnip (catnip aerosol sprays are available at many pet stores, plus some of the online ones) once a week until the cats have the hang of the deal. Repeat monthly thereafter.

  3. Spray the places your cat isn't supposed to be scratching (but is) with some anti-cat scratch spray. These are scented with things that us people can't smell, but greatly offend the average cat.

  4. When you catch your cat scratching one of the no-no spots, quickly grab them, lightly rub their nose in the spot (to further offend them with the smell) while saying 'No!'. Then quickly put them in the place where they are supposed to scratch and encourage them to scratch by placing their claws up there. You could show them what to do by starting to scratch the post yourself.

  5. Praise the cats (nicely, but don't go overboard) when they scratch the appropriate places. Cat treats are also greatly appreciated.

If it seems like your cat starts scratching the furniture whenever you come in the room, don't be offended. Your cat is getting up from a nap/lounge to see you, but needs to scratch first. There just needs to be a cat-happy scratching post closer by.

Training your Cat to Use the Toilet

Yes, it is possible to train your cat to use the toilet. Before giving you instructions, it is necessary to address certain questions posed on this delicate topic.

  • Does the cat flush when it has finished?

    No. Cats don't have enough weight to cause the leverage to flush. You'll have to flush the loo when you get home.

  • Doesn't it stink if you let it sit in the toilet all day?

    Unsurprisingly, cat dung in toilet water stinks considerably less than cat dung in cat litter. However, many people will train the cat to use the least-used (by people, anyway) bathroom in the house, so as to avoid offending guests.

  • Doesn't the cat get the toilet seat wet?

    Cats have better aim than most men.

  • How do you train your cat to go in the toilet?

    Some cats will pick this up on their own, simply by observation. Here are some simple steps for the slower cat:

Feline Toilet Training

  1. Buy a spare toilet seat and attach it to the top of the litter box with the seat down - cats are squatters. Let the cat get used to this arrangement.

  2. Put some clear plastic wrap (eg saran wrap) under the seat, with a hole cut in the middle. This keeps the cat from climbing in, and forces them to squat on the seat. Sprinkle some cat litter around the hole and let the cat get used to this arrangement. This step generally takes the longest.

  3. Raise the whole contraption up about half the height of your toilet. Make sure the contraption is securely in place, as falling at this point can ruin the whole deal. Let the cat get used to this arrangement.

  4. Raise the whole contraption up to the height of your toilet. Again, make sure this contraption is securely in place as falling at this point can ruin the whole deal. Let the cat get used to this arrangement.

  5. Transfer the plastic wrap and cat litter (flushable!) to under the seat of the real toilet. Let the cat get used to this arrangement.

  6. Hide the real litter box.

  7. Slowly make the hole in the plastic wrap bigger and bigger, until the plastic wrap is all gone.

  8. You now have a cat that pees (and whatnot) in the toilet.

For the brighter cat, some of these steps can be skipped; feel free to adjust as needed. For detailed instructions, see the book How to Toilet Train Your Cat : 21 Days to a Litter-Free Home by Paul Kunkel.

Potty Training

Many of us do not have the pleasure of owning intelligent pets that can perform the feats mentioned above. In this section, you'll find some general guidelines on how to toilet train your pets.

  • Never hit your animal.

  • If your pet has an accident and you are not there, don't yell at them or punish them after as they will not know why you are angry.

  • Reward them for doing good if they go outside/in the box.

  • Have patience.

Most animals will not go to the bathroom near their food. If you are having a problem with your pet always going in one spot, try moving their food to that spot.

Another thing to keep in mind is if your pet is trained and suddenly starts going in the house or outside of the box, it could be an infection so you should not jump to conclusions and think they are just acting up. Also, if your pet is angry at you for not spending any time with them they may also go where they are not supposed to.

Remember that if you have been busy and have not done your duty in giving them access to outside areas, you cannot be angry with them if they make a mess inside - it is your fault, not theirs. Just arm yourselves with lots of kitchen roll for a while!

Can I get my cat to at least go out rather than use the litter tray?

Most cats would rather be inside than out. One suggestion is to let them go inside when they want (that's why kitty litter was invented). It's a messy job but someone's got to empty the tray.

However, if there's somewhere dry outside where you can put the tray and it's still near the exit to the garden, cats will often use the tray outside. The next step is to remove the tray after a few days and then the cat will find some place to go in the garden.

Using the Cat Flap

Getting your cat to use the cat flap can be a more trying task than house training them. Suggestions to overcome this dilemma include opening the flap for your cat, letting them learn from their peers or guiding them through. However, if all this fails, you could try this Researcher's method:

Our cat, Freda, used to pretend she couldn't manage to get through the cat flap, although she always seemed to manage when it was raining outside. Now, opening the door for her would only have encouraged this and leaving her to it would have lead to wanton destruction of the wallpaper until we gave in. Solution: pick up the cat and put her through the cat flap. She soon learned.

House Training Puppies

Most of us know that dogs have a lower intelligence threshold than cats and need a little more patience when it comes to toilet training. Below you will find one Researcher's method which has to be read to be believed...

I hesitate to put this here because it seems so ridiculous, but it does seem to work. I got this advice from a man who had had dogs for more than 60 years and he swore by it.
When house training pups, he kept a very close eye on them so he could take them outside the minute they started sniffing around and behaving as if... hummm, how to put this... they needed to lighten their load. When he couldn't watch them, he kept them in a box so they wouldn't have an unforeseen accident, as they will avoid messing up a confined space.
He fed the pups on a regular schedule and always took them outside immediately after. He waited till they took care of business before they went inside again. The absurd part was that if they didn't co-operate after a while, he would take a matchstick and insert it partially into their rectums to stimulate the bowel movement. I know it might be better to use something else. Maybe the end of a Q-tip/cotton bud? Anyway, his pups were always very quickly trained to need to go out after meals and he almost never had accidents to clean up.
I don't believe this ever harmed the pups, though I could be mistaken. Just passing it along, for what it's worth.

This, in fact, makes perfect sense. When the female dog is still breast feeding the pups in a litter, she stimulates them to expel their waste by licking the area. This stimulation probably recalls mum's tender loving care.

It might be difficult to explain to nosy neighbours, though...

Water, Water, Water

When training a pup, never smack them and don't yell at them. If you do this you'll end up with an aggressive, neurotic dog. All that is needed is a huge pile of treats and patience. A firm 'no' is just fine and dandy.

If a dog is being particularly naughty (begging, whining, barking at unnecessary times, chewing your favourite pair of fluffy mules or is in the middle of desecrating your finest shag pile) then you will need a small water pistol or one of those lemon-sized and shaped squeezy bottles used on Pancake day and other national celebrations. Fill this with water and keep it at hand. When your adorable little pup is being bad, squirt him with the water - he'll soon stop.

The trick with this is not to let your animal see where the water came from or else it's all in vain. After two or three attempts, the dog won't try it again. The only downside is that some playful puppies will see this as a huge game.

The idea of using a water pistol is a good one for cats too as they don't like water either. The only time when this method of discouragement is not recommended is when said pet is in front of your favourite piece of electronics or your as-yet unframed Picasso print.

A Quick Rundown

In this section, you'll find a lot of handy hints that will ensure that life with your beloved furry friend remains the epitome of domestic bliss rather than domestic disaster. The first comes from a Researcher who found a natty way to stop a cat from begging:

  • My stubborn little cat used to sit in front of us while we ate to intimidate us into feeding her. One day, my roommate ordered take-out Chinese and his meal came with hot mustard. He held a dab out on his chopsticks for the cat to sniff and quickly touched it to her nose. She licked it and all hell broke loose. Half an hour of glowering later, she was cured forever of begging and will only come near our food if we call her.

  • For those of you who have cats who like cardboard boxes to sit in but are tired of vacuuming up the little cardboard bits they chew off and fling around, try putting some lemon juice on the box edges.

  • For scratching furniture/clawing curtains/banging on doors in the middle of the night, a water pistol is most effective. Just make sure the cat never sees you 'shoot'; the idea is to make him/her think that s/he randomly gets wet when doing certain things, not to make him/her frightened of you.

  • For the occasional cat who likes to watch males using the toilet, a quick squirt to the cat's head is most effective.

  • Pet stores sell something called 'Bitter Apple'. It's a spray that you use on items that you don't want dogs to chew. However, make sure what you're using is for your pet and not just a general taste-repellant.

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