By Paula Garber and Francine Miller
Living with cats who do not get along is stressful for everyone. Sometimes the cats need to be completely separated and then formally re-introduced. In many cases, the best outcome we can hope for is for the cats to coexist peacefully to a point where they tolerate each other, even if they do not actively “like” each other. To facilitate peaceful coexistence, the environment must be arranged so that the cats can easily avoid each other and do not have to compete for resources. Setting up multiple, separate “territories” in the home with plenty of perching and resting areas, litter boxes, and food and water areas is key, as well as ensuring that there are no “dead ends” where a cat could be cornered by another cat.
Clicker training can be used to reduce tension between cats, and training the cats to respond to their names can head off potential conflicts. Once you have a cat’s attention, you can redirect him using a toy or a tossed treat away from the other cat. Training “come when called” also is useful for calling a cat away from a potential confrontation with another cat.
Training “go to place” and “calm” can help cats who feel stressed or aroused in the presence of another cat know what to do instead of reacting or acting on impulse. Make sure the cats have easy access to multiple places to retreat to throughout the home, and train the cats “go to place” and “calm” in each one when the other cat is present, passing by, and moving around.
Of course, rewarding desired behaviors is an important part of helping cats get along. The easiest behavior to click is ignoring the other cat—be sure to click the cat when she is calm and relaxed. You can also click the cats for looking away from each other and for not hissing, swatting, growling, or chasing when an opportunity presents itself.
Taken from the article Clicker Training for Cats, first published in BARKS from the Guild, November 2017, pp. 16-23.
About the Authors
Paula Garber holds a master’s in education and is a certified animal training and enrichment professional and certified feline training and behavior specialist. She is also certified in low-stress handling, and pet CPR and first aid, and is pursuing a diploma in feline behavior science and technology from the Companion Animal Sciences Institute. Based in Ossining, New York, she owns and operates LIFELINE Cat Behavior Solutions, is currently chairwoman of PPG’s Cat Committee and is a supporting member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also serves on the Cat Protection Council of Westchester in her community.
Francine Miller is an applied animal behavior counselor and associate certified dog behavior consultant (IAABC certified associate) who has 13 years experience treating dogs and cats with behavior problems. She currently offers house calls for behavior consultations throughout San Diego County, California under the business name, Call Ms Behaving, and overnight pet sitting in the area around Carlsbad, California where she resides. She is also the vice chairwoman of the PPG Cat Committee.