Cats That Accidentally Learned an Unusual Skill and Won’t Stop
Contrary to popular belief, cats are trainable. You can teach them useful behaviors as well as novelty tricks. Because they are highly independent animals, cats might appear aloof or uninterested in following your commands, seeming un-trainable. However, there are many instances where they develop a habit simply because it produces a favorable result.
Reddit user shoonpo was interested in learning more about these occurrences and took to the subreddit AskReddit to ask other pet parents about skills or habits that they have “accidentally conditioned” their animals to do. From scheduled feedings to playing fetch and more, it’s amazing to see how small interactions affect cats’ behavior.
Keep reading to see what cat parents have “accidentally conditioned” their feline friends to do
“I talk to myself constantly so my cat thinks it’s normal to walk around making chatty noises all the time. If he’s awake, he’s talking. I think it’s adorable but it drives my husband nuts, which has resulted in my husband yelling at him a lot (don’t worry, the cat doesn’t get upset).
Now the cat thinks that’s just how my husband talks, so whenever he sees him he yells at him really loudly in order to imitate him. My husband will walk in the room and my cat will stop whatever he’s doing and just meow SO LOUDLY right in his face. It’s absolutely hilarious, dude got exactly what he deserved.”
“I picked my kitten up a few times to kill some spiders up high for me. So now whenever I pick her up she looks up at the ceiling and looks for spiders.”
“Our cat had impacted anal glands for awhile. We had to bribe him with treats for him to let us look to make sure he was doing alright. Now when he wants a treat he comes up and sticks his butt in our face.”
“When I was little I would constantly carry around one of my cats, Feist. Since my hands were full with her I would use one of her outstretched paws to turn on lights whenever we entered a room. Now the little bastard switches them on and off for fun.”
We are unconsciously training our cats every time we interact with them
According to the cat behavioral expert for Best Friends Animal Society, Samantha Bell, “The reason for this unintentional training is operant conditioning.” This phenomenon occurs when a “behavior leads to a reward which leads to a repeat of the behavior.” She also pointed out that animals motivated by rewards are relatively easier to train, citing her experience as a cat owner herself.
“I have a cat that loves to play fetch. She brings me her toy mouse, and if I don’t throw it for her, she sits on my laptop keyboard. Of course, this all started when I would throw the mouse to keep her from sitting on my laptop.”
“One of my cats has a favorite toy that he brings me sometimes, and when he does I praise him for his catch. Now either I’ve trained him into thinking he has to bring it to me to receive affection or he’s trained me into recognizing when it’s OK to give him affection. Or a little bit of both and it’s just a little nice communication tool.”
“My cats love blanket caves or anything along those lines. One day I was wearing a pretty long dress and as a joke, I covered one of my cats with my skirt. She sat right down and started purring like a motor. Now, anytime I have a long skirt on and crouch down to their level, she will dash under my skirt, make herself comfortable, and start purring. I worry about the day that she comes across another person in a skirt and dashes in like some pervy creep.”
“Bring me dirty laundry. One day my cat brought me a sock and it was so cute so I petted him and praised him. That started a cycle of it and now he’s constantly bringing dirty laundry to me.”
Cat behavior expert Samantha Bell recommends rewarding your cat when displaying favorable behavior and ignoring the behaviors that are not favorable.
“I conditioned my cats to use the scratching post with treats and pets and lots of ‘good boy, good boy.’ For the last 7 years, whenever I have to tell my one cat to stop chewing on something or anything like that, he goes to that post and scratches furiously looking at me like ‘but I’m a good boy!!’”
“My cat will open the tray to my Xbox when he thinks I’ve been playing too long. Even if I just started.”
“It’s now been 4 years and he will still look at me then pointedly look around the apartment, then back at me, expecting a reward. Has it resulted in him spotting the occasional bug? Yes, especially since over the years I’ve learned the slight difference between his real expression and the fake ‘I want treats’ one. Still, even if I know it’s all a lie, it throws me off and sometimes I give in and look anyway. Maybe I’m imagining it but he always looks so satisfied afterward, the fluffy jerk.”
“Get wet food at 4:00 am every day. I wake up early during the week and feed him wet food right away. Of course, he doesn’t care that it’s the weekend. His internal alarm clock is down to minute with precision. And because he’s a cat, and an a**hole, if we don’t get up and get his food, he howls loudly through the house, opens shutters, walks on our faces, nudges our noses with his nose… he’s so relentless it’s not even funny. But we love him.”
“My cat knows my bathroom schedule. When I have to pee after getting home from work, she’ll dart into the bathroom and wait for me to put her on the counter. Then I turn on the tap and she drinks the water. I have no memory of how this started.”
“My cat drinks out of a glass on my nightstand rather than a bowl. A couple of years ago, she was having some pretty serious dental issues (all fixed now), and was being reluctant to eat and drink. She had always wanted to drink out of the water cup I had for myself, and at that point, I just wanted her to drink anything, so I let her.
That was my mistake and now she refuses to drink out of a bowl on the ground, and will only drink out of cups. She has a permanent cup on my nightstand, to this day. Oh well, at least it’s easier for me to monitor her water intake.”
Bell recommends rewarding the behavior that you want to see more of and ignoring the unwanted. She also advises against using punishment to correct unwanted behavior. Using negative reinforcement as such only causes stress and distrust in cats, which can even result in more unsatisfactory behavior.
“My kitten will aggressively headbutt my face every night before bed, for top of head kisses before she goes to sleep.”
“My cat knows to come over for the last bits of my yogurt every night. She can tell from another room by the sound my spoon makes how much there is left, ie when it’s worth it to run on to me. Our dog never learned any commands except to come back from outside when you mimicked loud eating sounds.”
No matter what the situation is, patience is key when training your cat.
“My cat won’t eat unless we watch him.”