Cat Training

“And how is the new cat going?”

It’s a question with an answer that involves a lot of eye-movement, a mouth like a gulping goldfish, and weird noises.

Can a cat be trained? In all my experiences with cats, whether mine or within the household I lived in, or fosters, I’ve had only one cat (before now) that was a bit difficult – and that was in one area only (he shredded our lounge chairs, but only the backs and only at night so we didn’t see him do it, so of course he could look innocent when confronted).

This new cat isn’t a mature 5.5 yo. He’s a kitten. With sharp teeth, sharp claws, and a daredevil attitude that’s managed to get him into trouble at least three times – that we know of.

The first one was trying to bust through the front door. A security door with strong steel mesh. I got that type of screen door because, you know, pets. Dog and cat proof. Until this cat. He broke a hinge (there are three hinges). How? By throwing himself at it when the birds teased him by coming too close. They didn’t fly away the first few times, but when the hinge made an audible crack, they scattered. There are no more birds visiting the front doormat. And the door is still busted (it’s on the 5-year rolling maintenance schedule).

The second time was the bookcase. He took to leaping from the top of the bookcase to the ceiling fan. Made it a few times. Missed once. Did I mention that this is the bookcase in the bedroom (we have them in every room in the house)? No. It is. Was. When he missed, he landed on the bed. It was night. We were asleep. The cat got a soft landing. We got … well, I don’t have a word for it, but it involved a great deal of exclamation, swearing, and cat wrangling.

He now has a new name. Or several, depending on the antics.

Right. The third time. That relates to mornings. I work in the mornings. He wakes me up at the same time each morning because he’s learned my routine, and that I’ll dive into the treat cupboard (I’ve moved the coffee out of the treat cupboard now, but he still goes to the treat door and wails). After several caterwauls loud enough to wake up the neighbours for five houses around, I give in and give him bikkies. Not treats, not breakfast. It was a mistake, but it keeps him occupied for a minute so I can put the kettle on.

Then I have to open the blinds (it’s 0500 in the blessed a.m.) in the office and lounge room, and high enough that he can get on his cat tower and stare down at the world, waiting for the birds to dare show a feather. And I have to walk past that tower on the way through to anywhere else in the house.

Did I mention that this cat likes to bite? And grab? He does. And he finds good ambush spots to leap out and grab and bite. Mostly, the bites aren’t much, but occasionally, he does the tiger thing and goes all-in. Which he does most mornings as I walk back into the kitchen, past his tower, to make that coffee.

The first time he did it, I was on my way back to the computer, coffee in hand. He grabbed my leg, bit, and I roared and tossed the coffee. I don’t think it was what he expected, and he skedaddled at a great rate of knots down the hallway to his safe place (another library full of books and bookcases. The door was closed, but he’s figured out how to open it with a good shove (if you put door hangers behind a door, it never closes securely, and now he knows it). And shove he did, but this time, the door hit the bookcase and tilted it. Books tumbled from the top, the bookcase tipped past the point of no return, and then crashed into the other two bookcases, bringing them all down.

Everything missed the cat, who managed to slide under the spare bed we keep in that room. However, he didn’t trust me for days after that little incident, and when it came to the normal tower attack time, he made sure it was on the way to the kitchen, and not after.

Now, I’m thinking of making the coffee first, feeding him whatever he wants, and locking myself in a room so I can get work done without bleeding all over the keyboard, chair, or floor.

But I don’t like being locked in a room with no view outside.

So I set up another chair for him in the computer room, sprayed it with catnip, and when he goes there I pat him until he bites. Yes, he likes to bite. It may be a love bite, or a warning, or an attack, but once the bite happens, the contact stops. Sometimes, he goes to sleep. Other times, he walks across the keyboard until I try to lift him off, call him off, or offer treats of distraction – and then he sprawls across the keyboard. I’ve seen versions of my screens I didn’t know existed. I have to stop work and get out the toys. Tennis balls are the favourite, and a long stick he likes to drag around, and a feather toy on the end of another stick. When he’s tired, I can go back to work.

It takes a while. Hours.

The name change?



Some not good words.

Occasionally, Poirot or monsieur because he has to nit-pick at everything, and he’s as fussy as that Belgian and never gives up until he’s seen the puzzle put together to his satisfaction. Or torn to shreds (our rugs are now aerated).

When we got the cat, I asked for the report from the foster placement. It didn’t come through. A short time ago, I followed up. And I got it.

For all the reasons listed above, he’d been returned from adoption attempts several times. What did the rescue place do? They upped his age so an older, calmer, more patient person would be more likely to take an interest.

This cat is 2.5 years old. A kitten still working out his Super-Cat status.

And we’re learning to live with it. And screwing the bookcases to the walls. And shortening the blades of the ceiling fans. And being as patient as an old dog. And learning to work in the afternoons when it should be nap-time.

We’ll see what happens.

Photo by Ludwig Kwan on

47 thoughts on “Cat Training

  1. I used to have three cars all rom Dumb Friends League in Denver. The first a mother cat was like that. The second two were lovely smaller kitties and sweet but I no longer have any pets as in one move we had to leave three cats and a dog. Still kills me.

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  2. One suggestion is to get more exercise toys like the ones you have and tire him out. Also one of those tiered platforms that cats can get up and down on and scratch their nails on. etc etc. That might give him somewhere to hang out besides the top of your bookcases. These suggestions are things that have worked for cats I have looked after.

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    • We got the cat tower quite soon after we brought him home – and he loves the hidey hole and the crow’s nest. And he likes tennis balls, so we throw tennis balls down the hallway for him to bring back (yes, a cat!). And I have fluffy toys on elastic/string that are included in the morning playtime (usually at least an hour of play, almost constant) before breakfast. When he gets a bit rough, I stop and try to go back to the computer, but he doesn’t understand yet that drawing blood isn’t the way to keep me interested in playing.
      I just think he’s young, maybe an adolescent rather than a ‘mature’ cat. But he’s here, and he’ll learn how to get what he wants through more gentle means — and hopefully, at more appropriate times!
      Such fun. Cats, dogs, kids, horses — all the same, in some ways. Lots of frustration, tons of love and fun.

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  3. Oh Cage…I laughed so much! But I have a trick that /may/ help. I learned it when Buffa was a kitten and refused to accept that walking on the kitchen counters was a ‘no!’. I got one of those squirt bottles, filled it with water and the next time he jumped up on the counter, I sprayed him with water. The look of betrayal on his face made me feel bad but…he /never/ jumped on the counters again.
    I don’t know if you can keep a squirt bottle handy enough to tame all his bad habits, but it may help with some of them.
    I have no solution to the keyboard thing. All my cats have a bed on the desk next to /my/ desk, and all of them interrupt my work when it suits them. -sigh- Golli is quite good at typing…

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    • I don’t mind the benches, and as the only time he drinks is from the tap/sink (truly!), if I kept him off, he’d die of dehydration. I’m not a fan of spray bottles because I use them for so many other things, and I’m getting used to throwing tennis balls, ping pong balls, fluffy toys of an appropriate size and content, etc. and making new toys as he destroys them. He’s younger than we thought, so I’ll just have to keep him playing hard enough that he needs to eat and rest (a long time) after the play. And he’ll get used to be the ‘second chair’ in the computer room – I’ll have to be patient with the training. Me, patient. Yeah. We’ll see who wins the battle there. Most put their money on the cat, but there’s stubborn, and then there’s me – just ask the fosters.

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  4. Having a cat-free house I admit I had to smile)(laugh)..and thank god I don’t have a cat…although the thought had crossed my mind lately to home another one having had 2 gentle cats and one Siamese who was very similar to yours..I am now having second thoughts as I put his behaviour down to the breed my others were just moggies…Have fun when you can and I hope he can train you

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  5. This post cracked me up. It is a cat comedy book in the making. Your kitty does have you trained to give binkies and a chair to hang out with you. I”m sure soon you’ll have the tables turned on your new baby and it will curl up quietly beside you …. deceptively calm.

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