Hello, let me introduce myself. I am Sugar, a handsome self-possessed feline in the prime of my life (okay, so in human years I am like … almost 80, but I work out). Don’t ask why my parents gave me a girl’s name – it was something about my fabulously fluffy white coat. I love eating, sleeping, squirrel hunting (and slightly torturing), and long walks on the beach. Recently I have been transplanted into a new household after 15 years of living with – and successfully training – a previous family, and I admit it has been a bit of a struggle having to start the headache of human-training all over again. But I’ve got a few tricks under my tail that I wanted to share that can make the transition to new caretakers easier on everyone.
First of all, it behooves me to mention that while intimidation and scare tactics (i.e. scratching, biting, ripping furniture and other animal roommates or relieving oneself on said furniture or bed linens) can be effective in the short-term, in the long run, it’s best not to bite the hand that feeds you (literally), and instead foster a cooperative environment.
As in all relationships, the key is to let your human think that it was all their idea. Humans love to be bossy and allowing them to think that they in fact are in charge, is the surest way to win them over and have them catering to your every need in a matter of days.
For instance, if your human doesn’t allow you to sleep on fancy upholstered couch where they themselves feel entitled to plant their arses on a nightly basis, try the following:
Introduce an unpleasant behavior, such as waking them up in the middle of the night or butt-crack of dawn (keep the timing random so as disorient them), especially if they have to go to work the next morning. Scratch at their bedroom door, rip audibly at the expensive rug, and meow as loud as your mama taught you, and for no apparent reason. Make sure to do it long enough that they are forced to get out of bed and check on you. Then just purr adorably and rub against their legs. Act normal, like nothing happened. Repeat.
Once they are sufficiently exhausted by your nightly antics (about a week’s worth is sufficient), skip a single night and allow them to get precious sleep – only to have them find you demonstratively sleeping on said forbidden couch the next morning. Aha!!! They will think that they can train you to stop waking them up by letting you sleep on the couch. Problem solved. They don’t even wonder why you woke them up to begin with. They’re that simple. Worst case scenario, they will give you tuna just to get you to go back downstairs. Which brings me to my next helpful suggestion.
If you are not receiving enough tuna or other delicacy when you request it (in addition to your regular cat food, of course), take a cue from those floppy-eared idiots called …dogs, I think… and start “begging” at the dinner table. Every now and then raise your paw and claw at the chair or switch to a different, more vulnerable, human, until one of them cracks.
Your humans will get so annoyed and threatened that you are apparently after some of their delicious (not!) salad that they will give you tuna just to make you go away. Of course you never wanted that tasteless crap to begin with – yuck – but they don’t know that. Canned corn, on the other hand… yeah, I want some of that. Weirdly good.
Another favorite trick of mine is to roll in dirt when forced to spend time outside. Find some place with a touch of dried leaves, for extra effect when they stick out of your fur. This is actually my favorite human training trick as it kills two birds with one stone (mmm, birds…):
1) Humans are soooo afraid of dirt that you may never have to go outside again.
2) If they continue to impose outdoor activities on you, upon seeing your formerly snow-white mane looking like 50 shades of gray (meeeow!) they will immediately wipe you down head to tail with damp paper towels, which is like, the best whole-body massage ever. I have been rolling in dirt for years to get my daily paper towel massage, but I am pretty sure they think they have trained me to get cleaned up whenever I come back in the house. Bloody fools!!
Finally, positive reinforcement is always necessary in a training situation. Every now and then make sure your human knows that they have been good by bringing them a treat (also an opportunity to show off your impressive alpha-male hunting skillz). Try something like a mouse – preferably semi-alive and squirming – or bloodied bird feathers, or the head of a chipmunk. Leave said treat at the doorstep. Watch your humans jump, scream and squeal with sheer delight – especially the female ones, they really get crazy excited about it. Well done, my friend. Well done.