Cats are jerks.
Don’t get me wrong – I have 3, they’re adorable, and I love them to pieces. Cats are rewarding pets, but there are definitely cat owners out there who would agree that it’s a good thing cats are cute because they can be obnoxious.
I’m hoping this book will help with that. It’s phenomenal and wasn’t remotely dry, perhaps because I was thinking about how I could apply what I was reading to my own cats. I underlined a lot of the material and found it valuable and interesting right from the start, even in the introduction (did you know that cats can walk on narrow objects because they don’t have collarbones?).
The authors divide each chapter, with Bradshaw focusing more on domestic cats in general and Ellis then describing how to go about training. She goes over 9 key skills in chapter 3: rewarding spontaneous observation and exploration, systematic desensitization and counterconditioning, luring, marking a behavior (using a word as a reinforcer for the times you can’t get to a “real” reward immediately), touch-release-reward (helping the cat learn to tolerate touch), teaching relaxation, collecting a cat’s scent, maintaining a taught behavior, and finishing a training task. Each of these skills comes with a practice exercise. The skills are then used to help train various behaviors, such as coming when called and learning to be comfortable in a cat carrier. Throughout the book there are pictures of Ellis’s cats engaging in training behaviors. There are also plenty of chapter notes and some suggested reading that I plan to get to at some point.
I still have a couple of questions about training, some of which are specific to issues I’ve had with my own cats, and I also really wish Ellis had talked about whether/how she uses a key word to get the cat to do the behavior (e.g., to sit, which she taught her cat Cosmos to do). That’s probably my biggest complaint about the book. I will also admit that it makes me feel a little like a bad cat mom because I know I’m not likely to do much training, at least not with my current cats. They’re all older, and although that doesn’t make them untrainable, their behavior is less flexible and there are a lot of negative experiences to countercondition (especially the cat carrier), and frankly I’m lazy. But I like knowing that I can potentially train them, and there are a couple of things I plan on working on pretty soon.
For those who have the patience, this will be an incredibly useful book, and I certainly plan to keep it around as a reference. I strongly recommend it for any cat owner or anyone who expects to get a cat in the near future.