We all like to be praised rather than punished...Right? Well, the same goes for your cat or dog and that is the theory behind Positive Reinforcement Training.
What is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive Reinforcement is the act of giving your cat something nice or rewarding IMMEDIATELY after she does something you want her to do. By rewarding that behavior immediately she is more likely to repeat that same behavior in the future.
Positive Reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools you can use to shape or change your cat's behavior because it's better and easier to teach your pet what she should do instead of trying to teach her what she shouldn't do.
Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement. The reward has to be given within seconds or your cat may not associate it with the correct action.
Example: When your cat uses the scratching post, you can throw a piece of dry food at her to chase as a reward. BUT, if you throw the food after she stopped scratching the post and is walking away, she might think that she's being rewarded for walking away.
Keep in mind that CONSISTENCY IS KEY. Everyone is the home should reward the same behavior, the same way.
Tools for Positive Reinforcement Training
Tools for Positive Reinforcement Training can be anything from food, praise, petting or a favorite toy or game. When your cat is first learning a new behavior, such as using a scratching post instead of your couch, she should be rewarded every time you see her using the scratching post. Once you see that she is doing the behavior on a regular basis you can slowly give less treats...You can go from giving a treat every time then slowly give every few times...basically, keep her guessing and always continue to praise her even when you are not using treats anymore. Your cat will eventually learn that if she still offers the desired behavior she will eventually get what she wants...your praise and the occasional treat.
Many cats love to play and playing helps your cat develop physically and mentally. Providing the right play outlets can also reduce unwanted behaviors. A bored cat is more likely to misbehave.
Never underestimate the power of play. Not only is is great exercise for your cat but a great bonding experience for both of you.