This post briefly sets the stage for why we should take time to train our cats. It is the first in our cat-training focused series.

Nefertiti in sunbeam
Nefertiti enjoys a goodsunbeam.

I don’t know anyone who would argue with the statement that cats love sunbeam. Yesterday morning, I found my cat, Nefertiti, lounging on the bathroom rug right in the path of a morning sunbeam. However, most cats are looking for a lot more out of life than 20 years or so of moving from sunbeam to sunbeam – unfortunately, that is all that is expected of many of them.

While there is not a lot of detailed evidence about the exact evolution of cats, most scientists seem to agree that cats evolved to live with people primarily as vermin hunters with a side of companionship. This is in distinct contrast to dogs, who evolved as co-hunters and protectors as well as companions and were subsequently selectively bred for a variety of tasks, including herding, tracking, retrieving, as well as just general cuteness. As a result of such selective breeding, many dogs have lost or greatly reduced their hunting instincts, to the point that some do not know how to kill or consume prey, even if they catch it, and most feral dog populations depend on human scraps (and moderate temperatures) for survival.

Not so cats, who even after thousands of years of domestication, continue to be highly evolved killing machines, often providing compensatory predation to reduce populations of other environmentally harmful species, such as rodents. (Of course, cats also scavenge; feral cats get the majority of their food from scavenging through human trash.)[1]

Nefertiti on the fridge
Without enough to do, cats come up with good ideas – like climbing on the fridge

However, despite the resourcefulness demonstrated by feral cats, their indoor cousins, who are genetically identical, are somehow expected to want nothing more than to do nothing! This expectation – or lack thereof – can lead to problems, when cats find their own activities, such as climbing curtains, playing knick-knack hockey, and sprinting through the house at midnight.

Cat at play
Providing play opportunities is just one part of cat enrichment.

Once medical concerns have been ruled out, many of these problem behaviors stem from an inexplicable discrepancy in human expectations. Even the least motivated dogs are generally expected to know their name and a handful of basic commands, such as sit and down. Even the most motivated of cats are expected to know… nothing. Training cats is generally a slower and more painstaking process than training dogs – but the payoff is enormous in both the reduction of problem behaviors and the admiration of your friends. So let’s start a journey together, to make your cat, your Next Best Pet.



[1] Alley Cat Allies – http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=1012

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