I’m sure that we have all met that type of cat; the one that just doesn’t care. You can call their name as often and as loud as you’d like, but they just won’t come. They even ignore when you tell them off and are so disrespectful and stubborn.
Fortunately for us, it is entirely possible to show your cat that they are not the boss. To do this, we have to earn their respect first, which can be done in several ways.
How can I make my cat respect me? You have to earn their respect first, which can be done through earning their trust, showing them affection, whilst also teaching them discipline. It is possible, but how difficult it is to achieve, and how long it takes, varies from one cat to another because it depends on their personality.
Read on to learn more about how to build trust with your cat, show positive reinforcement, but also maintain boundaries and obedience.
Earning Your Cat’s Respect
As we all know, cats can’t really be made to do anything. 4,000 years ago, humans and cats made a sort of agreement; they killed rats for us and in return, we provided shelter, as well as some other things.
In all of this time, cats still have a strong sense of self, and they clearly are not domesticated quite like dogs are. However, there are still ways we can earn their respect:
- Affection and Positive Reinforcement
- Discipline and Boundaries
How can I Build Trust?
Without trust, there is no respect to be gained. Ideally, you would be raising your cat from a kitten, because it’s easier to make bonds this way, but everything is still possible with cats of any age.
The most important things to begin with would be:
- Your Approach; avoid making sudden moves and sudden loud noises, and always approach your kitten or cat calmly
- Routine. Establish a routine as quickly as possible, such as feeding them their meals at fixed times. Routine gives a cat comfort, just like it does for humans
- Eye contact. Try to avoid making direct eye contact, as there are some cats which may take this as a challenge
- Communication. Instead of using your hands like so many of us do, use your voice and speak softly with your cat. This could help build a necessary bond, and it helps to keep them calm
- Never corner your cat or force them to do anything. This includes forcing affection onto them, as you will end up taking one step forward but two steps backward. Maybe they just don’t want you to touch them yet, or they just don’t like being touched in the particular area, such as their bellies or paws.
- Make sure your cat gets a good sniff of you. Watch their body language, and always leave them be if they show any aggression or fear (such as ears flat, arched back, fur standing up)
- Use toys to encourage play, and give treats whenever you think it is appropriate. Such as if the cat plays with their toys, uses their scratching post, or comes over for a rub, they deserve a treat.
Showing Your Cat Affection and Positive Reinforcement
You can show affection and positive reinforcement by:
- Petting and cuddling
- Praise – use your voice, tell them that they’re being well behaved
- Giving treats or using catnip
- Playing their favorite game or with their favorite toy
- Encourage social behavior. Use treats if you must, to lure them out and socialize
You need to show your cat the right direction by using positive reinforcement at the right time. Every time your cat does something good, such as scratching their post, you should praise them and maybe give them a sort of treat.
By doing this every time, they show good behavior, and simply doing nothing and ignoring their bad behavior, in time your cat will learn.
Without positive reinforcement, your cat won’t learn anything. If you are not consistent with the reinforcement, it could fail to work.
The timing is also very important, as you must give them the reward very quickly after the action so that it won’t be confused with a different action.
It would be wise to have a different variety of treats to be able to reward your cat with, as they could possibly get bored. This is why I also suggested catnip because if any other treats don’t manage to get your cat interested, catnip shouldn’t fail.
Never force affection onto your cat, as this will lead to discomfort and a lack of trust.
If you notice that your cat suddenly turns aggressive towards you when you are petting him, or ducks away when you try to, it would be best to just stop and leave them alone for a while.
However, if this happens too often check with your vet to make sure your cat isn’t trying to tell you that something is wrong.
Let them come to you when they would like some attention, and give it if possible. Giving them treats after they have done this is the kind of positive reinforcement you need, and your cat will slowly begin to learn that they can trust and love you.
How to Reinforce Discipline and Boundaries
With kittens, they need to be shown what they can and cannot do, and how far is too far. By showing a negative reaction (by saying ‘no’ and possibly giving the cold shoulder for a short while), they will slowly learn the limits.
As kittens, they have that extra bit of loose skin at the back of their necks which you could also grab gently when you need to tell them that they have done something bad.
This is only if using your voice is not enough – there are some cats which acknowledge our voices and some which just don’t. You also must keep up the consistency for a while to help your kitten understand.
We explain this in more detail in this article. We highly recommend you to read it as it teaches you the proper way to let your cat know that you are mad.
Time to act – Be a teacher!
Disciplining your cat doesn’t only mean using treats as positive reinforcement and showing negative reactions, but also teaching them tricks. Just because they are cats, that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn how to sit, fetch, lie down, roll over, etc.
In fact, teaching your cat to do some tricks usually helps eradicate aggressive behavior.
Every cat is different, so how attentive and eager they will be when learning tricks can vary. That is why patience is necessary, as they don’t always get it right on the first try.
Training your kitty to do tricks can also help to form bonds between the two of you.
Always keep any type of training session short, as cats tend to have short attention spans and will get bored quite easily. Focus on learning one trick at a time, only moving on once your cat has mastered it.
Be sure to practice in different areas and rooms of the house, so that your cat gets used to responding to you in different environments, and not only associating it with one room.
Most cats only learn from positive reinforcement, meaning that punishment is not really necessary because it won’t do anything. When they have done something wrong or bad, just sternly say ‘no’ and leave them alone for a while.
The lack of attention should be enough for them to understand that what they did was wrong. Punishing them any more than that, or even harming them, will only cause mistrust.
When training your cat, try the clicker method. It is a reward-based training, but you use the clicker to help your cat associate the sound with the training. The sound also helps to get and keep their attention.
The Clicker-Treat Training Method
- The first step you must take to begin this type of training is to show your cat the clicking sound, and reward them for nothing for the first time. This is known as ‘charging’ the clicker.
- Secondly, either you have your cat perform a trick that he knows, or wait for him to do it naturally himself. This ‘trick’ can be anything, such as head-butting/rubbing, or other tricks that you have taught your cat, such as sitting. Only make the clicker sound after he has performed a trick, and reward him with a treat.
- The final step is to show your cat that, after performing a trick, the clicker will sound and a treat will be rewarded each time. Only give rewards if the trick has been performed properly.
When training your cat to do certain tricks, don’t forget to communicate with them at the same time.
So, if you’re teaching them to sit, make sure that you also say ‘sit’, so that they can begin to associate this sound with the trick they need to do.
As mentioned previously; cats can get bored quite easily, so don’t forget to keep the sessions short, and teach them a new command every month or so.
Ensuring that you keep up with the consistency on your part as the owner, all bad behavior problems should slowly fade away.
With cats that are particularly difficult, you could start having your cat earn their meals. Instead of rewarding your cat with a click and treat after sitting, try to get them to sit before they eat and use the meal as a reward.
If you want to know more fairly easy tricks that you can teach your cat, you can find more in our article on training Maine Coons! It doesn´t matter if you have a Maine Coon, it works the same way with all cats. Read it here!
This is one way to show your cat some sort of ‘good manners’ and show respect to its owner.
Understanding What Isn’t Disrespect
Our cats jumping up on the counter is not a lack of respect, this is just cat behavior, as cats feel the need to be up high and observe everything. It is important to be aware of the differences and try to understand our cats as much as we can.
If you have a kitten, and when you play, they are getting a little bit too aggressive this is because they are still learning the boundaries and their own strength.
You will need to show a negative reaction when they are a little bit too much, and in time they will learn how far they can push it.
Many people incorrectly believe that perhaps their cat lashes out at them, seemingly without reason, that this is a lack of respect.
Another incorrect assumption is that their cat has bipolar disorder. The way that cats behave, and their body language, is their way of communicating.
When a cat lashes out and acts aggressive without reason, there usually is a reason, but we just don’t know what. Perhaps they are feeling sick, or in pain. Always check with your veterinarian if you are not sure about your cat’s behavior.
If you are certain that they are not ill, and you’ve had your cat checked, try to think – did something happen that could possibly be traumatizing for your cat?
Such as moving, new members joining the house, or maybe just visitors, and so on.
What about the Alpha Cat?
The ‘Alpha Cat’ is one which;
- Bullies and manipulates
- Bites you when they want something, such as your toes or nose in the morning to wake you
- Is overly protective of their toys and food
- Only lets you pet them for a short time, and only when they allow it
- Has outbursts of aggression without reason
This type of cat believes that they own their owners, and they believe that they need to train you. There is still hope though, so don’t give up on them. Behavior training would be necessary to show your cat who is in charge, such as:
- For aggressiveness during petting; you should only pet your cat when they have earned it, and use petting as positive reinforcement any time they show good behavior and not only whenever they demand it.
- If they are biting you to wake you in the morning, you will have to close them out from the bedroom overnight until they learn. Ensure that they have access to everything they could possibly need. In case you think that it is cruel to put a cat in a room at night, read our article on that here. It is definitely okay.
- For a demanding and manipulative cat; you should never respond to any attention seeking or demanding behavior, just ignore or walk away. Cats thrive on attention, sometimes it is irrelevant if it’s positive or negative attention. In time they will learn that they cannot just demand what they want, whenever they want it.
- Clicker-treat training would also help with stopping any bad behavior
Do I Have to Dominate My Cat?
Many believe you have to dominate a cat, but that is not the case. It is a mutual agreement, a friendship. Cats are not pack animals, so if you try to dominate them they will just pretend like it didn’t happen.
This is especially true for females, as they are even more so alpha as they are the dominant gender of the species. For them dominance is maternal, and dominance is taking care of the others and providing for them.
If your cat has ever brought something to you such as some prey they might have caught, or even a leaf, then your cat respects and loves you.
Just because our cats can’t exactly understand what we’re saying, it doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. They are always observing our body language and learning how you act in particular.
Cats tend to dislike loud noises, and they can definitely pick up on the differences between your tone of voice.
They understand that when we call their name, they should respond to that sound. Many cats just don’t care and choose to ignore you. This is just their way of being independent and not having to respond to you if they don’t want to.
Some people say cats can even tell when we are lying to them, like when we take them to the vet but we try our best to convince them that it’s not the case.
To conclude, don’t forget to speak with your cat, and show them that they are loved, but you can still respect their space. This way, you should receive double the love and respect back.