In these series, I would like to share everything I know about voice training a kitty. This is based solely on my own practices with quite a few cats I had in my life. Both males and females, pedigreed and (mostly!) strays.
- Where did I learn this stuff?
My first kitty, a stunning Siberian, named Katka, was a subject of envy of many for her behavior was amazing and she understood what the humans wanted with ease. I believe, nowadays she would have become an Internet sensation. Not that she was just gorgeous and big, but also for all she could do.
I was 8 years old when we got her and back in the day we did not have any “clickers” or “super treats”. In fact, I had no idea what to do with a cat. I really wanted a dog. But there was no way in the world my mother was giving in on that wish. Seeing me very upset of not getting a puppy, my Dad somehow talked her into getting a kitten. He promised me that cats can do tricks and go for walks with me, basically, to do all that a puppy will do.
When the fur ball arrived in my lap, my heart melted instantly. She was only 3 months old, fluffy and very playful. Just like any healthy kitten, she would get instantly amused by anything that moved, and just like any healthy kitten she was set to explore the world around her. That world included kitchen table, drawers, my Mother’s knitting basket (oh-oh!)
Whatever amused the kitten, amused me. But not my Mother. I was brought up in the Old Country, and not in the most loving and caring environment. It was quite an easy practice for my Mother to threaten me very often that she would throw my kitten away to the streets.
My heart would stop when I heard that. I started spending as much time with Katka as I could, and not just to train her to stop getting into my Mother’s way, but because I was scared that if I left her unattended, she would get thrown away.
Without any experience, without any help, driven by fear, I turned into a cat trainer at the age of 8. By the time I was 10, my Katka knew a lot of tricks, used the handles to open the doors, sat on my shoulder on the bus and could understand about 20 commands. All that I achieved by using the different tones of my voice. Well, OK, sometimes I combined the voice training with cheese – her most favorite treat.
Looking back now, I think I had more time on my hands. Because training a cat is a very dedicated process. Not because the cats are stupid, no, quite opposite. The cats are very smart and very inquisitive. Therefore, their attention spam to something is very limited. They are geniuses in fur. But you do need to spend time with them to discover their genius and work with it on your cat’s terms. Yes. Everything is ruled by the cat.
Remember: a lot of cat intellect is based on the sound of things! Use this for the best training practices!
- The expense free training
So, what do I mean when I say “voice training”? Obviously, the use of human voice. The use of different intonations (ranging from the softest low to annoying high pitch) and certain words.
Nine is the first kitten I named without having “crispy” consonant in the name, as opposed to Sky, Jackie, Junior and Lucy and other cat names I had for my cats. My fiancee said that he will have difficulties with his name. He was right, partially, as if I simply say “Nine”, as you would do in a count, Nine would not really drop everything and run to me. But the story changes when I say his name with a little pause in the middle, something like “Nah-hine”, and making sure my voice is deep.
Cats are absolutely amazing when it comes to their recognition and perception of the sound! You probably, already heard that cats hate loud sounds. That is absolutely true! These predators by nature were born to detect the slightest leaf moment, disturbed by their prey. There is a high price that the cats pay for their incredible hearing – just like in humans, their hearing decreases if exposed to too much loud noise. So, basically, when the cat hears something really loud, the sound is split into so many additional pitches, that it is physically painful for the kitty.
I am not preaching yelling at your cat when you want to punish the unruly feline. No. I am just saying that properly using short commands in loud, high pitched voice will get your cat to avoid that kitchen table much faster than “spraying” (I hate this method of training and it is useless!) or giving her treats when she jumps off (kind of stupid – the cat can not process that much information and tie it up together – she will simply think she is getting the treat just because), or, worse, like flicking their ears (this is absolutely disgusting and I consider it abuse).
Yes, of course you want to demonstrate in action what you want the cat to do – pick them up and put them on the floor, point a finger at them, so on.
Also, this method does not involve any expenses – you do not have to buy clickers, wet food, toys… Nothing! Well, may be, a little treat here and there would not hurt.
- Example of voice training when something is not allowed
Let’s voice train the kitty to get off the kitchen table.
Choose a word. First of all, you need to chose the word you want to train your cat to associate with something you do not like them doing. I would not recommend “off”, for 2 reasons. Reason 1 is because the consonant in this word is not “crispy” and it will fade. Reason 2 is because you are limited to only about 20 words that the cat will respond to. So, you want to use as many universal words as possible. The word “Get” will help you in the kitchen table situation (meaning “get off”) and if the kitty is destroying your flower arrangement in the living room (meaning “get away from those flowers”) and if the kitty is really hogging the front door as you are in a rush to work (meaning “get out of my way, please”)
What we are trying to achieve here, is to train the cat to obey one word, which will apply to all situations where the cat needs to know they are doing something wrong.
Practice your tone. This is everything! In the example word “get”, I always emphasize the “g” and say it loud, in higher pitch. Don’t yell! The cat will just ignore you. You need to get their attention, and you need it fast. At the end of the word, emphasize “t” and make it a bit longer, sound like “Gett”. You can compare the ways of saying in this example:
Practice the delivery. Always say it faster and clear and very firm. You do have to deliver the message that you are not pleased. And repeat. Usually, 3 times works the charm. The longer you stick to your practice, the less repetitions the cat will need.
Implement additional sounds. Ideally, you want your cat to just not to do the things you do not like. Well, that’s doable, of course. But be prepared that here and there the cat may violate the rule again. So, if you want to make the communication even simpler, come up with some sound that the cat will associate with the same meaning as “get”.
Listen to the examples:
Use both the word and the sound together at first. Once your cat is very familiar with the word and sound, practice using the sound only.
Very important – do NOT treat the cat when they obey this command. They will misunderstand the meaning of the “mean” word and will associating it with the treat. This will cause them seeking “negative attention”.
Once the cat obeyed your command, just leave the situation.
Coming up next:
- Voice training to get the cat to come to you no matter what they are doing!