Training and Behavior

Some people say dogs are smarter than cats because dogs can be trained.  I think it's just the opposite - cats are smarter because they frequently refuse to do what YOU want if it's different from what THEY want.  Dogs are commonly trained to do things they don't want to do.  How smart can THAT be?

However, cats can be trained.  The best method of training is positive and consistent.  Is your cat scratching your couch?  First, make sure he has a scratching post right next to his favorite scratching spot on the couch.  If he scratches the couch, stop him with a firm "No".  Move his feet to the scratching post and keep telling him how awesome he is and scratch him in his favorite spot for as long as he's using the post. If he goes back to the couch, start over.  Ignore bad things, praise good things over and over and over.

Occasionally there are things you just can't stop a cat from doing, or you can't get close enough to redirect its behavior to a more appropriate object.  Like getting up on the kitchen counters.  I once had all my cats trained NOT to get on the counters.  Then I got Dusty.  No amount of positive reinforcement, or spraying with a water bottle, or making loud noises, or anything would get that cat off the counters.  Of course, if it was ok for Dusty, the other cats thought it was ok for them too.  Well, Dusty is in a new home now (no, not because of the counters!) and I am having to retrain everyone else.  So now we get out the water squirt bottle.  The best way to do this is to spray the cat when he gets on the counter, or other spot you don't want him.  Preferably, do it from a spot where he can't see that you are the one wielding the spray bottle.  So the spray seems to come at him out of nowhere!  It startles him, he gets down.  You praise him, pet him, even give him treats.  Squirt him when he gets back up.  Praise him when he gets down.  Sometimes you won't be able to hide the fact that you are holding the squirt bottle.  That's ok too.  I still have a couple of older cats from my pre-Dusty days, and if they go somewhere I don't want them to, I point the bottle at them, get their attention and say "no" - usually that's enough.  They know what the spray bottle is.  And I always make sure to put down the bottle the instant they obey, pet them and love them and tell them how wonderful they are.  The water bottle isn't a punishment - it's a deterrent.  The petting and the praise is to reinforce what they've just learned, and to keep them from feeling that they have to run away from you or you're going to squirt them all the time.

Never punish a cat - she will not understand why you are being mean to her and will likely start to avoid you.  Never rub a cat's nose in its stool if it has gone outside the litter box - the only thing this teaches a cat is not to let you catch it.

One note on spray bottles - if we have discussed showing your cat, and that is something you would like to do, avoid using the spray bottle.  Spray bottles full of disinfectant are used at cat shows, sometimes cleaning the cage right next to the cage your cat is in.  If he is afraid of the spray bottle and the sound it makes, he could be very frightened at the show.  There are other ways to train him to stay off counters and other places.
Training and Grooming

Somalis don't really need a lot of work when it comes to grooming.  It's not usually necessary to give baths, since cats keep themselves pretty clean.  However, if the cat should get something on her fur or feet, it definitely needs to be washed off - she will lick it off and could become very ill.

Ordinarily, your Somali will probably only need to be brushed once every week to two weeks.  Some Somalis have heavier, denser coats than others and will need brushing or combing every week to avoid getting matts in the britches, tail and tummy areas.  Most Somalis have non-matting coats.  Brushing and combing on a regular basis helps cut down on shedding and hairballs.

Your cat's nails should be trimmed once every two weeks or so, depending on how fast they grow.  Hopefully this is something I've demonstrated so you know just how to do it.  Trimming the nails helps keep scratching on undesirable (to you) surfaces to a minimum, and avoids those accidents that sometimes happen when playing, or when you are holding a cat who gets frightened. 

Remember, declawing is specifically prohibited in our contract.
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