ShiShi here ~ I’ve been noticing that there’s a lot of talk on this blog about training cats. But what about a far more important topic – the proper training of pawrents? I just know that there are many more kitties out there who are wondering about these same questions that I ponder daily:
1. How can I get meowma to feed me earlier in the morning, and with my most preferred foods? 2. How can I pawsibly convince her that I must have a Cat-Sized Door open to my catio at all times? 3. And, truly, is there a way to re-train a pawrent who stubbornly refuses to play at four in the morning?
If you are a kitty who dreams of finding solutions to these questions and more, then read on. I will explain my step-by-step process of Pawrent Re-training, and hopefully you will find many helpful tips relevant to your own challenging home situation.
A Word of Caution
Before we go any further, though, I would like to offer a disclaimer. All pawrent re-training tips offered here should be approached with a clean bill of health from your pet care practitioner. Re-training can be taxing to even the strongest and most determined of felines, and I beg you to pay attention to your health as you approach this new program. If at any point the exertion feels like it is simply too much, make sure to slow down and take some Me Time – catnap as often as needed, or do that extra grooming that there’s never enough time for. If painted claws or an exotic wardrobe are your ticket to happiness, treat yourself to that special look that you’ve been dreaming of.
Please understand that quick, transitory results are not what we are aiming for with this program. Instead, we want re-trained habits with more treats offered per day, more play sessions with the squeeky mouse or jumping string, more adventures into the outdoors. These kinds of changes take time to become habitual for your hooman but will lead to a lifetime of kitty/pawrent happiness. You may find yourself longing for the lazy days prior to your re-training program, but I urge you to persevere. I promise that a well-trained pawrent is just around the corner if only you can hang on.
That all said, I thought that what might be most helpful is a short list of the pawrent re-training techniques that I have found most helpful in my own life. Without further ado, here is my list of the five most valuable techniques in my purrsonal arsenal.
5 Steps to Training Happiness
1. Most important of all - be sure to stick to a firm schedule! This is critical if you are aiming to have a pawrent who will reliably get up to play with you or get you a little snack at 4 am. I often find that the use of extra firm paws while walking across meowma’s stomach works excellently.
2. For those of you who are looking to refine the food offerings in your life, be gentle but consistent about snubbing your nose at any but the preferred foods. I must emphasize here – you simply cannot give in just because you are hungry. The only caveat is if the refused food is re-offered with crushed treats on top.
3. When it comes to your pawrent reward system, however, make sure to be anything but consistent. A short cuddle here, a quiet purr or leg rub there – these things are all fine. Just keep your hooman on their toes and constantly offering your favorite fun or treats by being unpredictable with your affections.
4. It’s time to make friends with your vocal chords if you haven’t already. Most pawrents seem to find a wide a range of mews, chirps, bleps and purrs to be motivating, and you can use this to great advantage. For instance, escalating mews to yowls first thing in the morning does wonders for getting my breakfast delivered in a timely manner, as well as achieving the earliest opening of my catio door.
5. Last, but not least, practice your fine motor control – I’m talking about your claws. You need to be able to offer anything from the tiniest hint of one claw all the way to ten sharp daggers depending on the needs of your situation. If you need somewhere to practice your skills, the living room couch is often an excellent place to start. When all else is failing in your communication line, let your claws do the purrsuasion.
I hope that these tips get you on track to helping your pawrents become the best hoomanz they can be. And remember, it really isn't their fault that they were born without fluff. ~ Lots of love and hugs from ShiShi🐾
After last week’s over-the-top craziness when I tried to backpack both cats by myself, ShiShi and Haku were obviously feeling unenthused about adventuring. They were avoiding their backpacks like the plague (I usually keep them on the floor in our living room) and they actually ran from the room when I pulled their harnesses out from the cupboard the other day to de-tangle them from the dog leash. I needed a really great adventure if they were ever going to look forward to exploring the great outdoors again.
Mind you, it wasn’t that they were acting unhappy at home, other than ShiShi’s usual eating problems (that’s an entirely different blog post!) It was more that we were all missing the extra great kitty snuggles and romping around mischief that seem to result after a good adventure. It took most of the week before I finally managed to pull everything together, but yesterday I managed to have breakfast early and attempted to haul us out the door in time to beat the heat. And I do mean attempted…
Tons of Treats Later...
Remember that little running from the backpack behavior? I’m usually spoiled by adventure cats who might circle around a few times and be a little bit of a pain when putting on their harnesses, but this time it took outright bribery to get ready to go. Fortunately, I had just bought a bag of the most exciting treats ever (in the kitties’ opinions, anyway – Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Rabbit Bites. Can’t recommend them enough!) The irresistible offer of those magnificent treats lured ShiShi out from under the papasan chair and Haku from his spot behind the couch. More treats got them into their harnesses, and even more got them into those dreaded catpacks. See a pattern here?
Then I rounded up my additional teen helpers (no way that I was going it alone again!) and we voyaged a whole 10 minutes down the road to the best cat park around – Phillippi Estate Park. I adore that place because very few people go there, and we’re just not that likely to run into a lot of dogs, but there’s a great trail where the kitties can explore to their hearts content.
Complaints were loud and long from Haku on the way there, as he was still completely unenthused about the trip despite all the treats. Traffic felt torturous, and of course we hit every single red light. But then we were there and…
Adventure Cat Bliss!
The minute that we were finally feet on the trail, everything changed. ShiShi (quiet until now) was begging to get down from her pack to explore, and even the normally wary Haku jumped out of his open pack before I could get it set down properly on the ground. Both of them were instantly trotting down the trail, stopping for sniffs, but ready to actually walk. After last week’s fiasco, it honestly seemed like a hiking kitty miracle.
It was a real milestone, because it was the first time out adventuring that we hardly carried the cats at all (Haku got a lift with me a few times when he got nervous). We managed to complete an entire ¼ mile circuit! That may not sound like much, but I am now filled with hope for longer hikes in the future. In my darker moments, I’ve wondered if ShiShi and Haku would ever be able to really do this hiking thing.
The worst thing to happen on the whole adventure was the 20 million mosquitoes that apparently are making the woods their summer home, and the quickly escalating temperature. We even managed to avoid any patches of poison ivy this time, and nobody tangled so badly in the brush that I had to crawl after them. Haku didn’t want to go back to the excellent climbing tree at the entrance of the trail, but ShiShi explored all over the low branches there.
Needless to say, it took a fair amount of shoving and treats to get both of them back into their catpacks. But they were blissfully quiet on the way home, then napped away the entire afternoon without even one squabble. I’m calling it an unqualified success – and everlastingly grateful that the kitties aren’t running from their harnesses now.
Buy more of those amazing treats to keep on hand for training emergencies, and make sure to take the cats to a secure and familiar place if I need to make up for a bad adventure. Also, I’d definitely prefer in the future do it sooner than I was able to this time – bad habits are SO hard to break, and I’ll probably be handing out treats to get into the catpacks for a while.
Crazy Cat Mom – is that really a thing? And is it affecting my brain? Sometimes I definitely have to wonder.
For instance, a few days ago I had a truly brilliant (I thought!) idea. Because the kitties seem to do so well adventuring as a team when we take them on big park adventures, I thought that I’d take them out the same way for a neighborhood walk.
I usually try to get our cats outside for a walk of some sort 3-4 times a week. Unfortunately, at the last minute there was no family help available for our little adventure. Did I abort the plan and play Tricks Fur Treats instead? No! This Crazy Cat Lady decided to take them out on the walk by herself.
What was I thinking?! Until I find a better explanation, I’m blaming it on toxoplasmosis, probably contracted as a tiny child. After all, I have adored cats my entire life and so far exhibit no signs of losing that love and obsession. Admittedly, there’s no actual science that I know of confirming this effect on the human brain, but I’m willing to use it as my best excuse for the hot mess I got us into - it's otherwise impossible to explain.
Get a Cat Stroller!
For this ridiculous adventure, I decided to walk down to the nearby Turtle Bridge with the cats, while wearing them in tandem backpacks. Because, remember, toxoplasmosis. Note to self ** Get A Cat Stroller!!!**
ShiShi and Haku both normally enjoy visiting the bridge – it’s a quiet and somewhat isolated spot despite being located in the middle of our busy neighborhood, and there are tons of interesting things to look at, smell and poke around in. I was optimistic that both cats might be ready to walk all the way home – they’ve each done this in the past.
Unfortunately, despite the setting sun, it was still incredibly humid and hot outside (typical mid-summer Florida) and packing that extra 25 pounds down the sidewalk was a bit more work than I had bargained for. Then, to add to the misery, about three seconds after I let the kitties out of their packs at the bridge for their explore time - BAM, the loudest mower I've ever heard started blaring away in the background. I mean, really? The adventure was starting to feel more like torture.
Somewhat ironically, the local birds didn’t seem to mind either us or the mower at all – a lovely stork, an egret and a grey heron were all congregated at the far end of the bridge, watching us intently. The kitties, however, were NOT impressed with the company. Those birds are all larger than most cats, and neither of the kitties was going anywhere near those beaks! ShiShi seeemed to think briefly about it, probably because she is so insatiably curious, but even she quickly turned around. Haku was too busy contemplating the fastest route home to even be bothered.
Not Quite Cat-astrophic
By this point (perhaps 15 minutes into the whole experience), ShiShi and I were both pretty much done with the evening adventure too. Haku was thrilled to pull us both off the bridge, and I barely had time to grab the packs as he yanked us along the path toward home.
Honestly, I think both kitties had a better time once we were off the bridge and away from the birds. We slow-poked our way home, and even said hello to a very nice lady who stopped to pet Haku. He walked right over as soon as he saw her, while ShiShi stayed back and hidden in the tall grass.
No surprises there – Haku loves everyone he meets. ShiShi, on the other hand, could easily be better known as Miss Cautious when it comes to meeting new people. After all that craziness, eventually we made it home. There was just enough time to play a nice round of Tricks Fur Treats, and cool off in the AC before snuggles and bedtime.
Lessons learned? 1. Check the outdoor temperature before taking the cats out for a walk. 2. Never be crazy enough to wear two Cat Packs at one time. 3. Start a savings fund for that cat stroller!