Feta Cat is continuing along about as before. Increasing her dose of Gabapentin has reduced her toe-biting tendencies (thank goodness), and we are continuing to work on heat therapy (quality time with a heating pad) and massage/stretching to loosen up her gimpy back leg.
Talking to the fabulous Nurse Jenn, who helped with Feta’s initial PT appointment, we are indeed going to try “hydrotherapy” with Miss Feta. In other words, I want to teach my cat to swim.
Like most cats, Feta is NOT a fan of water. So, rather than cart her off to PT and completely traumatize her by introducing her to the whole idea all of a sudden (in a loud and dog-smelling environment, no less!), I am working to train her to be less afraid of water and, if possible, associate water with Good Things Happening.
When working with fear and anxiety, I believe very strongly in using positive-only training methods. (I think corrections can be great if used carefully and kindly in certain situations, but are counter-productive when dealing with fear-related behaviors, where the key is to cultivate calm and trust.)
So, since there’s not a ton out there on training cats specifically, I’m primarily brushing up on dog training techniques! In particular, I want to train Feta to accept water (and eventually swim) by using clicker training.
If you’re new to the idea of clicker training, this is a silly but informative video explaining what it is and how it works:
This is a great tutorial on how to get started (and using a cat, no less!):
For more detail on how to be the most effective clicker trainer, this video is great (if not especially exciting!):
This video is specific to training to overcome fears. I haven’t figured out the exact protocol I’ll use with the cat + water, but am going to do something similar to this. I think first approaching the bathtub bravely, then being calm in the dry bathtub, then being calm with a trickle of water, etc. I sure am glad this cat is food-motivated!
What I love about positive reinforcement (like clicker training) is that you can really get it to work with any animal! Modern zoos use clicker training to teach their animals how to do things that are needed for their “doctor visits.” I love this video, as an example:
Some people say, “You can’t train cats!” I say, nonsense, if you can train a rhino, you can train a cat!
Do any of you have any training tips to share?
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