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How Do I Make My Cat Listen to Me?

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: August 23, 2018
How Do I Make My Cat Listen to Me?

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Educating our cats is not always the easiest. While they are not the egomaniacal monsters some make them out to be, they do often march to their own drum. While dogs may generally be more trainable than cats, this does not mean it is impossible to teach a cat a thing or two. Cats are social animals who will try to communicate with you through body language and vocalization.

One of the most common problems we may have is when our cats don't see, to be able to pay any attention to us at all. If we want to live in a harmonious coexistence with our feline friend, you might want to find ways to make your cat listen to you. The first is knowing that you can't force them to do anything and expect them to be happy. Instead, AnimalWised helps you find ways to strengthen your bond with your cat and make you worth paying attention to.

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Why does my cat not pay attention to me?

Each cat has their own unique set of personality traits and behaviors. This means there will be some things very specific to their situation which prevents them from paying attention to you. If your cat previously listened to you, but there have been changed in their behavior, it is usually due to some type of stress or distraction. There are some general reasons why this may occur:

  • Environmental: cats often change their behavior due to changes in their environment and home lives. The introduction of new family members or pets can make them feel threatened and become insecure.
  • Changes to routine: cats become accustomed to certain levels of routine and then develop a reliance on it. Amendments to things like meal times might cause them to become distracted.
  • Feline instincts: cats will mark their territory by scratching or urinating on objects. Marking can be caused by stress, but their general hunting instinct will also influence how they act. Ensuring their instincts are taken care of can help strengthen your relationship.
  • Physical maladies: pain, arthritis, trauma, urinary tract infections or any number of various pathologies can lead to aggressiveness or abnormal behavior.
  • Age: when cats are very young, it is normal for them to be unable to pay attention. They are overstimulated by their new world and, just like humans, will need to learn to adapt. Similarly, older cats may be more reluctant to obey. However, in the latter case, you may need to take them to the vet to ensure they don't have one of the various medical issues which are often exacerbated or induced by age.

The first two factors in particular can generate stress in a cat. These are something which can be amended, but ignoring them can lead to serious behavioral issues. It is important to consider what issues might be affecting your cat and what you are able to do to alleviate any associated problems, such as their inability to pay attention.

Basic techniques to get your cat's attention

One of the basic techniques we can employ to attract your cat's attention, is also one of the fundamentals for their well-being. This is the use of positive reinforcement. Through positive reinforcement, we reward the animal for doing well rather than scolding them for doing what we consider wrong. These rewards may be in the form of a treat, caresses or simply warm encouragement. It helps a cat achieve their learning quickly and effectively, without causing them harm or confusion. Paying close and constant attention to their behavior is also important in educating felines.

The use of scolding or shouting at a cat when they do something we disagree with is problematic for many reasons. If we see a cat jumping up on the mantle piece or somewhere they shouldn't be, we can give them a firm ‘no’ while they are on this platform. This is so that they can associate your words with the action. However, if we scold a cat for doing something long after the fact, then they will not understand. They may associate the scolding with otherwise acceptable behavior which causes confusion. Physical punishments or those which rely on fear and intimidation do not work. The result, instead of a well-behaved cat, is more likely to be a stressed, anxious and even aggressive animal.

In cases where we see our cat's engaging in undesirable behavior, we need to encourage positive behaviors. If they scratch or bite something they shouldn't, we can introduce something compelling which they should.

How Do I Make My Cat Listen to Me? - Basic techniques to get your cat's attention

My cat does not obey me when I tell them to stop scratching the furniture

While it is normal instinctual behavior for cats to sharpen their claws or mark their territory on objects in their environment, it may not be something you want to tolerate when these objects are your prized possessions. To help them stop scratching your furniture you need to provide a suitable alternative. A scratching post or pad is the best option as it provides suitable material for them to sharpen their claws. If you struggle trying to get them to scratch this instead of your furniture, you can place it in front of the cat when they start scratching the furniture, then reward them for making the switch. You can also lace the scratching post with catnip or pheromones to make it irresistible.

Once they have got used to using the scratchers you provide, we need to ensure they are left in an adequate place. When you see them scratching furniture, you can gently, but firmly remove them and put them in front of the scratcher instead and reward them for using it. Having more than one scratcher will also be important. Making them at different heights to give them more options will also make them more attractive to use.

May cat won't obey me when biting and scratching

It is not only our furniture which are cats might be tempted to scratch. As part of their play patterns, biting and scratching are common ways for them to bond with other animals, including the human animal. Aggression is also a reason why they may want to bite or scratch us, but this is a serious sign that a deep behavioral problem exists. While kittens, we may choose to play with them by letting them bite and scratch us, their smaller teeth and claws not leaving much damage. However, this age is an important time for socialization and they will learn that this type of behavior is not inappropriate, even when their adult appendages can cause a lot of pain. A cat needs to learn bit inhibition, meaning hey know the limits of play before it becomes serious.

When playing with our cat and our cat starts to bite too hard, we need to cease play and give them a firm ‘no’. We do not shout or lose our temper. We should also avoid any stimuli which might trigger such behavior. Another way to help prevent this behavior is to replace our appendages with a toy and let them play with this instead. This way, they an associate play fighting with objects and us with more wholesome activity.

How Do I Make My Cat Listen to Me? - May cat won't obey me when biting and scratching

My cat does not listen when I call them

To get your cat to listen to you when you call them, we have the following advice:

  • The first thing you need to do is choose a short and succinct name. It is important to avoid confusion in our pets by using a nickname they don't know or by using different intonations.
  • Choose a treat they like which you can use as a reward. Start by standing only a short distance away and call until you get their attention (it might be helpful to use a toy at first). Each time they approach you give them the treat so they can associate the action with something positive. Repeat this several times a day, but in short sessions. You may want to do it before their meal so they are more likely to pay attention to you.
  • Increase the distance by going to other parts of their environment. Once this occurs, you can slowly stop using the prize and simply give them some affection.

Also, it is important for you to associate their name with something positive. Don't use their name in negative situations otherwise they will be disinclined to approach you. The earlier you start this education, the more likely they are to respond positively to teaching and discipline. However, this doesn't mean old cats can't learn new tricks.

Know a cat's needs for discipline

It is important to know your cat's needs and respond accordingly. You can't expect a cat to be obedient if you don't meet these needs, it will only encourage misbehavior. These needs include:

Of course, meeting your cat's needs doesn't mean exceeding them when it comes to food. This can lead to obesity which can also detrimentally affect their well-being. We need to appreciate their instincts and not try to force them to do things which would be unnatural and confusing. Understanding their behavior will help facilitate learning.

How Do I Make My Cat Listen to Me? - Know a cat's needs for discipline

Consistency

The key to ensuring your cat pays attention to you is to remain consistent. This means being consistent in keeping their routine, attending to their needs and maintaining training throughout their lives. If they begin to lose interest and you have stopped using treats, you can re-incorporate them and then phase them out. It is essential to be assertive, but not aggressive and to have a lot of patience. Cats can be very receptive to changes in our mood. If we really struggle with our cat's behavior, then we can ask the advice of a feline ethologist. Ask your vet and they will be able to recommend someone to help.

We hope these guidelines are useful in trying to get your cat to pay attention to you. Remember that respect, trust and love is essential to fulfilling these goals.

If you want to read similar articles to How Do I Make My Cat Listen to Me?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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