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I like "redirect instead of correct" because I find it agreeable. But I have a 15 week old kitten whom I have had for 7 weeks and I have not had any success with this.

In all cases where I attempt to redirect (gently without scolding), the behavior ends up being repeated sooner or later. In the one case where I attempted to correct (with scolding) the behavior has never been repeated again.

For example there is a certain shelf my kitten cannot go on and is difficult to make safe for a kitten. It is in an odd place that she has to go out of her way to get to, and it took her a while to even discover it existed. Once she discovered it, she keeps trying to go there. Every time I see her about to go back there I either a) distract her with a toy on the ground or b) pick her up and put here somewhere else. When I do a, once she is done with the toy she goes back. When I do b she immediately heads back to the spot. The more times this happens, the faster she tries to run into the spot, as if it is a game. This happens every day, multiple times, for about 4 weeks with zero progress. It has been a complete failure.

The counterexample is when she tries to jump on my laptop keyboard while I am using it. The first few times this happened, I picked her up and moved her elsewhere. Then she kept doing it with more "passion" so I raised my voice at her. Finally I just hissed at her and shoved her away with some force. She has never once repeated the action since and that was 3 weeks ago. It didn't change her behavior towards me otherwise, she didn't begin to fear me or anything. She's as sweet as ever and when she sits on my chest while I'm lying on the couch with my laptop she is very good, seems happy, and will even resist going after the mouse pointer. It has been a complete success.

In the example above with the shelf it doesn't appear as though she likes the attention; she usually meows in frustration when I pick her up when shes doing this, and if she happens to be on the shelf already when I pick her up, she resists.

With redirect it's as if the more I redirect the action, the more passion she puts in to trying to do it, as if I'm somehow enforcing the bad behavior despite giving her no praise after redirecting. It's as if redirecting only delays the inevitable bad behavior.

All advice I read recommends redirect instead of correct. My own judgment tells me that is the best way to train a pet as well. And it feels better than harsh scolding. I continue to try it, but I have 0% success with redirect and 100% success with scold / correct (although I have only done that once).

Does this training method actually work or is it a result of people not wanting to yell at their pets? How does a cat actually associate being redirected with "don't do this any more"? What am I doing wrong?

  • I think redirect instead of correct will fail if what you're trying to redirect them to is not as attractive to them as the bad behavior. A food motivated cat won't be easily redirected from stealing food, for example. – Kai Jul 14 '14 at 21:59
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My personal experiences have not been like yours.

No one tool works perfectly with cats all the time.

That being said I try to use scolding, tap on the nose, raising the voice sparingly. Aside from not liking those methods my personal feeling is using it frequently is very counterproductive. Cats do not like having pressure applied to them and at some point are likely to rebel against coercion.

I do use those negative tactics for safety / well being issues such as: jumping onto a forbidden space like the stove, stealing food from another cat, sneaking outside, playing too roughly with another cat, eating human food (much of what I eat is probably quite bad for cats). Not long ago I was eating corn and my "kitten" was (when I was dealing with something else) licking the canola oil off my plate. That probably wouldn't harm her, but since I often eat things that do I want to emphasize NEVER EAT OFF MY PLATES OR DRINK FROM MY GLASSES so I did raise my voice at her. As she already knows the rule she quickly trotted off. Not long after my "baby" smelled the oil and tried to nudge her way closer and closer to my plate. I got my head down to her level and gently but firmly nudged her away to convey "this is my food, don't try to steal it" (I think they can understand that but probably can't get "much of what I eat is poisonous to you so I don't want you in the habit of eating my food").

Other than that (and say catching them in the act of peeing somewhere they shouldn't) I do not use negative tactics.

Lots of psychological tools can work on cats, such as reverse psychology. Once I wanted to get some cats from one room to another where they didn't want to go, so I closed them in the room they wanted to be in and then when I opened the door they instinctively wanted to go to the other room they'd been restricted from.

Gentle tactics often seem to get a response. One of my cats is not declawed (I don't declaw cats myself but have inherited several who were already declawed). Dealing with her is a new experience for me. I like to have her walk on my chest and cuddle with me but I don't like her to extend her claws into me (during kneedy pawing, happy stretch, etc.). To train her not to I either gently lift her paw off of me, or, gently touch the top of her paw with my finger. More and more she seems to avoid using her claws when she is on me, or extend them just into my clothes but not actually to the point of clawing my skin.

Nothing works all the time, and nothing is a perfect "training" tool. Cats are not dogs and not easy to train. The flip side is that (for the most part) you really don't need to train them.

Different cats have different personalities and respond to stimulus differently, but you're going to need to have a big bag of tricks to use to deal with your cat, a few quick tactics will not really cut it. Basically you'll be "negotiating" with your cat and doing a kind of dance with it. It is not like being the master of a creature which tends to live in a strict hierarchy (such as a dog). It can be more difficult but also more rewarding.

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Part of redirecting is to provide an acceptable equivalent. If the cat wants to get up high to a shelf, redirect them to a safe spot on a cat tree.

It sounds like you are just refusing rather than redirecting, leaving the cat no place to acceptably work off the instinct to climb high.

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