How do you teach an old cat new tricks?

I have a cat. A 9 year old pure bred Russian Blue. I’ve had him since he was 6 weeks old.
I love this cat. He’s the friendlyist, purrrrrist, playfulist cat I’ve ever had. He’s so cuddly & full of love.
He’s quiet (doesn’t meow or whine much. Russian blues tend not to be very vocal) and well behaved. He knows where he’s not supposed to go and he doesn’t go on it.


Last Ocober we got a new couch. $1500, has all the bells and whistles, built in phone, recliners, massagers, etc. The cat sheds a bit, and even though he is strictly an indoor cat he still has his back claws. So, I don’t want him on the couch, at least not while it’s still fairly new.
Problem is, he was allowed on the old couch. The old couch was in pretty bad shape, so we didn’t care if he went on it.
I don’t want him on the current couch. So when he started going on it we used the same training techniques we used to train him as a kitten…squirt gun, scolding, and an occassional swat with a small pillow. These worked great in conditioning him to stay off the dinning room table, not chew electrical cords, eat plants, etc. But it’s not working with the couch. I catch him on it every other day! The disipline is consistant. What really gets me is, HE KNOWS HE’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ON IT! As soon as I see him on it, he jumps off and runs and hides. He knows. So how can I discourage him? He absolutely hates the squirt gun, yet it’s not detering him. As soon as I leave, ZIP! He’s right back on the couch. I walk back in, ZING! he jumps off. He consciously knows he’s not to go on the couch, and he knows what will happen if I catch him, yet he still goes up there. Why is he so disobedient over this? What do I do?

:mad: I am not going to kick the shit out of him, so you cat haters can just forget suggesting that!

I think trying to retrain your cat would just end in frustration and anger on both your parts. He believes the rules say he’s allowed on the couch and that you are arbitrarily pestering him for no good reason. You might get him to accept the new rule, but it would probably take a lot of patience - cats do not accept change gracefully. They like routine.

Could you toss a throw or blanket across the couch? He probably likes to lay in the same spot (that routine thing), so you might be able to encourage him to stick to staying on the blanket - or even a large throw pillow.

At our house, Pumpkin has a fluffy blanket that usually resides in his favorite chair. When we have guests, I move the blanket and Pumpkin will go lie down wherever his blanky is (unless he’s hiding in the linen cupboard.)

Sorry, pk, but as old as he is, it just isn’t gonna happen. Like you said, he already knows it’s wrong, he just doesn’t give a rat’s hairy wazoo.

Of course, electro-shock training is an option you probably havn’t considered…

This may sound a bit strange, but my cat “Newt” has always had a fixation with our couches. No matter what method of training I used to keep her off the couch, she would be on it the first chance she got. I even tried this spray called “Pet-off”. I tested it out on a floor mat and she pee’d on it. So much for that idea.

I got so frustrated with her “needing” to be on the damn thing, each day I got home from work I picked her up, no matter where she was, and placed her on the couch and told her to “STAY!,STAY!,STAY!”.

I did this for about three weeks and since we all know cats NEVER do what you tell them to do, she eventually stop kickin back on my couch.

I’m sure she was thinking “That guy is not gonna tell me what to do!”. Heh, I told her. Of course now I can’t get her off my friggin bed. I’m think about just signing over mortgage and calling it a day!

Fuck the cat, i want that couch. :smiley:

  1. Cover the couch, at least at first.

  2. Get yourself a water gun. Not a dinky little water pistol. A good powerful one with a lot of range. I used a battery-operated one, but you might want a “super squirter”. You might even want to invest in lab equipment. Every time the cat scratches on the couch, or does something it is not supposed to, squirt the cat. You might want to accompany this with a sharp “NO!”. The squirt doesn’t hurt the cat, but cats really hate it. And the “NO!” reinforces this (Pavlov lives!)

Hmm… We are just finishing a dog training course (for our puppy Muttrox of course), and our source text (“Don’t Shoot the Dog” by Karen Pryor) also has a bunch of asides about cats.

She claims that cats can’t be trained by punishment-style negative reinforcement, they just don’t seem to get it. This seems in line with your experiences so far. However, she says, they can be trained to with positive reinforcements. I suppose she would suggest training the cat to prefer a different area of your house through postive reinforcements, so the cat would want to go there instead of on your new couch.

Other thoughts:

Would it help to move the couch to a different location? Then maybe the cat wouldn’t associate the new couch as being the same as the old one as much. Then, once it’s trained, you could move it to where you want it.

Is there any method to “punish” the cat when it gets on the couch, even in your absence? Mouse traps, a covering with bad smells? The cat seems to get on it when you’re not around, techniques like this might help.