This Cat is Driving Me Crazy!

23 Aug

If you’ve ever found yourself saying that your cat (or dog) is driving you crazy – don’t despair! Depending on what your cat is doing that’s making you nutty, you might actually have a budding superstar on your hands.

In Cat Vs. Tail, Cat always wins.

Tigress’ brand of insanity has to do with food. She was grossly overweight when she came to me (a hefty 20 lbs) and has since lost over 7 pounds! Unfortunately (for her) she’s always hungry and unfortunately (for me) she’s not afraid to complain and do what she can to get her way. Once she lost enough weight to enable her to jump on counters, I had to baby lock all my cupboards because she raided them hourly. I had to hide all plastic because when hungry she would chew plastic to bits, going so far as to ingest pieces. Eating was dangerous (for me and the dogs) – she would literally stick her paws in my mouth trying to fish food out – any plate within reach was fair game. More than once she knocked food off my fork en route to my mouth (she trained me to eat very quickly!). Dropped treats inevitably went to her – dogs never had a chance. And anytime I handled anything she thought was edible she would wail and moan and brush herself against me.

Thankfully I’m a clicker trainer and she was my “secondary species” for the Karen Pryor Academy. From the moment I began training with her, she lit up and never was the same again. I had to teach her impulse control and a solid sit-stay for the times I need to handle food and would prefer to not trip over her. I also taught her a solid recall for her counter-surfing days, and to give the dogs a break when she tried to steal their food. And then came the trick training. She nose touches, paw touches, spins in either direction, sits pretty, goes into a crate, walks on a harness, and now we’re working on fetch.

"You realize petting doesn't make me like the harness any more."

Tigress is so food motivated I’ve found that training her is comparable to training dogs. The body language is different and her brain works differently, but when she gets it (and she gets it quickly) she seems to have a better retention rate than the dogs and needs fewer repetitions to keep it solid.

I realize she’s a rare cat who loves food so much and is so willing to work for it – but this is also to say that you shouldn’t overlook and discard your dog’s (or cat’s!) “problem” behaviors. Most super high energy dogs who drive their owners crazy and make poor family pets (not to mention probably destroy thousands of dollars worth of “stuff”) would be excellent work/sports dogs if their natural prowess were harnessed. The clever dogs who get into the garbage, find the expensive shoes, open cupboard doors, would make excellent trick dogs. The dogs who do more sniffing than walking outside could be excellent detection dogs. The nutty rescued pup who almost literally pulls your arm out of its socket anytime you try to walk him could be a superstar weight puller or bikejoring companion. The little fluffy dog who won’t stop barking could make a formidable alert dog. And the cat who fights and beats a Pit Bull for a piece for dehydrated lamb lung can be a superstar obedience cat!

She's so sweet when she's sleeping

8 Responses to “This Cat is Driving Me Crazy!”

  1. Ximena August 23, 2011 at 1:50 am #

    Oh, mannnn! You’re so lucky to have a food-motivated cat. That makes training a breeze!

    Mine aren’t. Period. Or, really, I guess I have yet to find their specific reinforcer. Annoying.

    • ettel August 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

      Catnip? Tuna? Head scritches? Chasing the ribbon?

  2. Jan August 23, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    The idea of training my most annoying cat has never occurred to me.

  3. Kari August 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Oh my, stick her paw in your mouth?


    • ettel August 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      Not only in mine – in the dogs’ too.

  4. Tucker's Mom August 24, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    Tigress actually reminds me a lot of Olivia. She isn’t super food motivated like Tigress, but she LOVES to clicker train.

  5. Robin August 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    My critters (3 cats and a mini poodle) are scared of clickers. They don’t like the loud noise, but they will work for treats. My cat Vash is a counter surfer too and has knocked food from my fork or hand on more than one occasion which my husband finds hilarious. My girls, Ash & Terra will sit and paw your hand on command. Ash learned from watching Terra and Vash learned from watching the girls. I really only had to train Terra as the others learned from observation and will do it on command. I don’t encourage Vash to do it because he is so food crazy it’s dangerous with those claws!

    There is a high energy pittie at the shelter I volunteer at that I think would make a good agility dog because she learns fast and it would burn off some of that energy. She loves every dog she meets. If she’d only fetch she might be good at flyball too.

    • ettel August 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

      There are softer-sounding clickers called “i-clicks” and also digitized ones that make a variety of sounds. I’ve found that even the most noise sensitive of dogs find the digitized ones acceptable. You can always use a clicking pen, or just a verbal marker.

      I hope that Pittie girl gets an awesome home soon!

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