Last Updated January 5, 2004

NEW - Advice from "Missy" on how to train your Human!

This entire page was provided by "Missy" all I have done is change it from a word document to Dreamweaver html :-

"Hi Custard, what a classy cat you are. I would like to introduce myself - my name is Missy and I am an author. I give advice on how to train humans - thought you might like to include my latest works on your site. Keep up the good work.

cheers Missy
(from Australia)"

 

Toli and Missy learn how…..

Missy’s Story or "Advice on How to Train your Human"

I am a cat but not just an ordinary cat – as if there is such a thing. I live in Australia and I am a Sacred Cat of Burma although I am told that some people call us Birmans. I have been told that my registered name is "Sharada Shesa Shakti" and that I have been named after an Eastern Goddess of Power. Apparently I was the first one in my litter (that's me on the right in the photo) to climb up and over the wire mesh that was keeping me and my brothers and sisters secure in our nursery. I was the first one that made my way alone down to the family room. If you ask me this is not a question of power but common sense – I was simply curious.

I have heard my "human" say to people that I was not well named as I am a little "Softie" and not a "Shakti" at all. Silly little thing, my "human" has not yet worked out that my idea of Shakti or power is not to use force but to win what you want in life by using the most subtle means. It is true that some cats try to use force and tooth and claw in their training techniques but I use a gentle technique called positive affirmation.

Missy practising "Cute"

With this technique I simply let my "human" train herself to do my bidding by rewarding any small movement she makes in the direction that I want her to go. My human thinks my "real" name is actually "Missy" but I certainly don't acknowledge this unless it suits me or if I feel she needs to be rewarded or encouraged for some behaviour in her training routine. Yes, amazing as it may seem I have taken on the arduous task of non-violent training of a "human"! I thought it might be an idea to share with other young kittens setting their paws on the path to training of humans for the first time, to tell my experience. Perhaps they could learn a few short cuts.

Toli Demonstrates
"Dog Management"

Where to Begin – Recognise Your Natural Talent.
Having acquired a "human" ) to train, ( or in some cases a pair or a whole household, first of all find out as soon as possible what natural talent or resources that you have going for you. One of my sisters, "Sweetie" had brilliant blue eyes and she used them really well in combination with her soft voice to ensure that she received an especially good home even that her gloves are a little short. It worked so well that she continues to use her eyes to get what she wants in life.

Another sister named "Toli" played really hard to get. She exerted her independence and determination at such an early age because she took one look at children and decided definitely NOT to go to a home with children. Because she expressed this very clearly at such an early age the "human" soon started to feel that "Toli" needed a special family. When the right mature couple turned up our "human" was somewhat doubtfully explaining that she was not too sure of Toli’s personality and hoped that she would develop into a nice natured pet otherwise ………. Of course the minute she heard that there were no children and that the last cat had lived in comfort for over 20 years "Toli" put on her best purr and immediately endeared herself to them. I sometimes receive e-mail photos and she has quickly exerted her authority. She has even trained two dogs to recognise their status in the household – at the bottom. ( See photo above of Nikki the Samoyed )
My Talent or How it’s Done.
What do I do? Well partly it was good fortune – I am considered "Typey" and have a really heavy coat so I made sure that she liked to hold me and give me cuddles – this was easy as I quite like them actually. My second step was to draw attention away from the accidental lack of gauntlets and partial front gloving – well who needs them anyway they need constant cleaning. My method was to develop a really melting "look" – a gaze that goes straight to the heart. I know for some of you busy in playing and entertaining yourselves this may be a bother but believe me it is worth the effort.

My "melting look" has taken me far. I have progressed from only coming inside for short periods to almost permanent indoor occupation including all rooms of the house – yes, even the bed although she had declared that no cat was ever going to sleep on her bed. I have actually gone one better although I do say so myself - cold nights it is not on the bed but in the bed. Certainly beats the cattery!!!

Perseverance

I am having some trouble educating my "human" to allow me to sit on or get onto food preparation bench tops – she sprays!! Well I have heard complaints about male cats spraying but spraying humans are a real problem. It may only be water but most unpleasant. Incidentally any suggestions as to how to overcome this problem would be appreciated. I have tried perseverance, stealth and "accidentally forgetting myself" but have not yet come up with "the method." I have some success when I notice her water spray is nowhere in sight but I think maybe she is a slow learner and I require a special technique. By using a "really interested look" I have managed to get her to accept me sitting on a stool so that I can watch but she gets quite threatening (with the spray I mean) if I raise one paw near the bench. Currently I am still trying and inventing new techniques and with perseverance it is just a matter of time

Recent Triumphs

My "human" recently went to England and thought that I might like to stay with a friend of hers rather than go to a cattery with mum and my little sister. I have to say this idea did not appeal to me at all as mum had said that the cattery is where she used to live, that it is a very interesting place and she would like me to meet my Dad.

Sweetie Practising innocent " desk sitting"

Anyway my "human" took me visiting the friend and to my amazement she was expecting me to share with a Siamese cat. Would you believe it!! Well neither of us took to the idea so we ganged up – "Tasha" the Siamese became a traumatised highly offended resident and I developed my "pathetic" look. They tried two visits but "Tasha" was brilliant – she assured me that there was no offence meant but she swore at her humans for over three hours after we left. I nearly pulled off staying at home with the boarder but because I have discovered "boys" my "human" thought I might accidentally get let outside. ( I may have overplayed my sitting inside the screen door and looking out with interest.) Anyway as if I would – in fact if I got outside it would be very deliberately as there has been a rather fine tabbie Tom calling by recently and he has promised all sorts of things. ( My human thinks he is the ugliest creature she has ever seen – there is no accounting for taste is there.)

All in all my "human" is coming along fairly well. At the cattery I tried out a new "look"- one of "horror", when it was suggested that I be enclosed in a cattery pen by myself. She was quite quick really and suggested that I go in with mum – my mum is a lot of fun. She even went home and got my own basket – my daytime one and my very own scratching post. I decided to reward her with a new "look" – this one I have named my "sweet pathetic look" – it works best if you sit in the middle of a basket and make yourself look very small and insecure. The result was worth the effort as I was given a big helping of my favourite fishy biscuits to tempt me to come out of the basket and help me to settle. By the time she left I was still sitting in the basket taking in the new sites because I did not want to spoil her. She even rang from London to ask after me. Not all "humans" respond in the same way - the "cattery human" entrusted with my care needed completely different techniques but that is another story.

Me being "Cute" or what?

I hope the few examples I have given you clarify that in training humans you need to find out early what it is that you can "use" as your training aid and use it well. I have compiled the following guidelines or rules which might help you young kittens starting out in training "humans" -

SOME RULES FOR MASTERING DIFFICULT HUMANS:

  1. Be inconsistent and keep them guessing. Don’t let them get into habitualised behaviour – it takes the edge off life and their spontaneity. Who really wants to eat the same food at the same time every day. Inconsistency keeps them on their toes.
  2. Reinforce with rewards. If your human is slow on the uptake with learning ( and many are ) you should use the reward method. If they do something you particularly want them to do then give them some form of a treat – for instance if they smile and become happy when you chase toys or curl up on laps then do it immediately. It is important to keep their hearts "open".
  3. Develop variety in training methods. "Humans" can become stale if you use the same methods of training all the time. Study yours carefully and use methods that get best reactions. Note how I have several "looks" taking advantage of my special eyes. You could develop a set of "tricks" that really charm your human – it can be quite simply stalking toys or fishing for lost toys under the refrigerator, strong purring or rubbing round legs gets good results and some cats become adept in "talking" and get a good vocabulary.
  4. Stay alert and be creative. "Humans" are quite a challenge ( much more than training dogs who may have the misfortune to live at the same address). Don’t fear to try new techniques and keep yourself alert to changes in their behaviour which indicate that they are responding. Build on each small change of behaviour by positive affirmation so that they develop reactions that you desire. If a new training method works repeat it. The sky is the limit.
  5. Get co-operation from other "Humans". The wise "human trainer" will use the best responder in the pack to help in the training programme. For instance if there is a bit of feigned "cat aversion" from one member of the pack get help from the most over the top (OTT) cat lover in the pack. (Incidentally it is well to remember that all humans exhibiting "cat aversion" are feigning. There is no such thing as a truly "cat averse human" – they are simply badly trained. I blame the previous cats involved in their education for using poor methods.) The OTT cat loving human can be a great help – some have even said things like "love me, love my cat or …" and they should be encouraged to hold this stance.

  6. Have fun. Keep uppermost in your mind that training sessions should be fun. Enjoy yourself…

 


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