MeeeOW everypawdy, hope you all had a great weekend. It’s another miserable Monday and we ain’t da least bit miserable. Okay maybe a little, da lawn crew’s here and da hots have arrived. We’re all tryin’ to stay cool and me’s tryin’ to hide. Raena? She’s right at mommy’s side bein’ a great Service kitty in training. Anyways, are ya ready fur another educational posty ‘bout pickin’ and trainin’ Service Cats? As with all me’s educational postys this will be written in da human English fur translation purr-pusses. Ifin you missed me’s furst posty in this series, you can check it out here. We got some great questions and comments so we’ll try to answer them today. Ifin we didn’t answer your questions or you have more, purrlease leave them in da comments or use our contact us page to send us an email. Now let’s get on with it, shall we?
Last week we discussed how to pick a cat to train. We said that neither breed or sex matters. The most important thing to look for is a kitty that wants to be with you and is both outgoing and calm. Yes, that kitten/cat does exist. We also stated that you must be realistic in your expectations of the things a cat can do. While us kittys may be able to do things you might not expect, it shouldn’t be forced. In other words, don’t expect kitty to carry anything that weighs half their weight, much less more than them. The average weight of a healthy cat is between 8 to 12 pounds. That can vary from breed to breed, but do keep these numbers in mind when determining tasks for your kitty to perform. Remember, ALL TRAINING is based on kitty’s natural instincts. And, for the purpose of these posts we are focusing on a kitten of 6 to 8 weeks.
We were asked again, if Ragdoll cats are better suited to being Service cats. Our answer is still NO. Mommy has had and trained several Service cats and till me joined her, she had never had a Ragdoll. For mommy’s particular needs, Ragdolls are a good choice. This goes back to our first post and knowing what tasks you need performed and if a particular breed would be better suited to those tasks and your lifestyle.
The next big question we got was:
At what age can training begin?
Mommy says training begins the minute kitty comes home. You want kitty to perform tasks without fail. You need to develop a close bond with kitty. You’re going to want kitty to feel rewarded when they receive extra love and pats as opposed to treats. Mommy has a game she calls “Scent Me Up”. She rubs her cheeks and chin on kitty’s cheeks and chin. She often speaks softly while doing this. Mommy will say things like I love ____________(insert name), or ____________(insert name) is such a good kitty, this will also help kitty learn it’s name. Scenting is a natural behavior for kitties where they deposit their scent on whatever they’re rubbing; thereby owning/claiming that person or object as theirs. This is also one of the ways cats greet each other and treat their family members. Doing this brings you closer to kitty. Typically this behavior will cause kitty to respond in kind, purr and occasionally start kneading. The kneading behavior will be focused and become massaging as training progresses. You may or may not need kitty to perform massages for you, but this is a task that we perform for mommy several times a day.
If you need kitty to perform massages, PLEASE, DO NOT DECLAW KITTY!!! We will tell you how to get kitty to retract their claws in a later post.
The “Scent Me Up” game should be repeated several times a day for about 1 to 3 minutes each time. Remember, kitty has a short attention span and doesn’t want to be held still for long periods of time. And the last thing you want to do is cause kitty to run from you when it’s time for training. At some point, kitty will start initiating “Scent Me up” themselves. At this point, kitty is well on their way to a very strong bond with you. Kittens respond at different times and mature differently so there’s no set age or time limit for when this happens. Mommy continues “Scent Me Up” throughout our entire life. Sis Lexi had a “Scent Me Up Session” her last day here with us; and me gets them everyday too. Training continues even after the goal is reached. Remember, Repetition is the name if the game.
Some of the tasks we perform for mommy are dialing 911, carrying the phone to her, massages, Driving the wheelchair, and alerting to a syncope incident. So our size and weight come into play to determine when training starts. Raena weighs less than 2 pounds, so asking her to carry a phone or even press the buttons is expecting too much. But mommy can start to focus her kneading, and she can watch me alert mommy to a Syncope incident and learn to do it herself. All animals can smell the changes in body chemistry that occur before Syncope, Seizures, Heart Attacks and many other medical conditions; but not all animals will alert to those changes. Because mommy passes out several times a day, Raena gets lots of exposure to the smell and actions me takes. She’s doing pretty good. She alerts 75% of the time. She’s still young and hasn’t been with us very long so we do expect that she will eventually be at a 100% alert rate before long. Once she alerts 100% of the time, we can officially say that she has been specifically trained for that particular task.
Mommy says to watch kitty closely. How do they play? Do they have a particular quirk? Even if you think it’s annoying, how can it be focused and turned into a usable task. Again, training is most effective when kitty’s nature is taken into consideration. If you’re going to need kitty to be around water often, then kitty needs to get baths early and often and/or be a water loving breed. That doesn’t mean you have to scrub kitty down all the time, but they must be comfortable getting wet and being dried off. If you need kitty to be in a noisy office or area, then you must expose kitty to that type of atmosphere often and at a young age. But remember, it’s always good to provide kitty with a quiet escape. Mommy can throw a towel over our stroller to give us that escape. We still have access to mommy but we can safely take a break from all the hubbub.
Me’s gonna wrap it up for now, this is a lot of infurmation to digest. The first step in training is the foundation and most important one. Without that bond, kitty will never be 100% accurate 100% of the time.
Are there any particular tasks you’re interested in?
Is there a task that you would like to know if kitty could perform?