Oh hello, I know nothing about cat training.

by Kerry Ryan, Certified Professional *Dog* Trainer and Family *Dog* Mediator

While I adore cats, I don't know too much about cat behavior or cat behavior modification. Read on to learn more about my singular cat experience, and then check out links to the best cat training resources in all the laaaaaaaaaand.

The cat I lived with was a stone-cold murder muffin.

Freshly out of college, I rented one half of a duplex with friends in the Hawthorne District. The second unit in the duplex was rented out by a woman named Rainbow and another woman named Kestrel, and I remember thinking: welcome to Portland.

After we moved in all of our boxes and minimal, second-hand furniture, we had the requisite pizza-dinner-on-the-floor-because-we-didn't-yet-have-a-table meal, and in strolls this cat from the back of the house, casually helping himself to piece of pizza.

We laughed and were like "..........who the hell are you?" Assuming one of us had left a door open while moving boxes inside, we opened the front door and he strolled right out, pizza crust in his mouth.

Fifteen minutes later, as we reclined on the hardwood floor and stretched our tired muscles, in comes the cat again, super casual, and begins licking the pizza box.  

We all blinked as we witnessed this bizarre glitch in the matrix. Had we... left the backdoor open? We opened the front door. He sauntered off.

Cat who was murder in his heart.

Photo of Abeeza the Cat, who received next to no cat training and who regularly terrified the shit out of us.

Not three minutes later, in comes the cat again from the back of the house, and we were all like  IS THIS REAL LIFE? We opened the front door yet again and stepped out onto the porch, the cat at our heels. Rainbow was out there, sitting on the steps, her front door propped open behind her. "Do you...do you have a cat?" we asked. "Oh. Yeah," she said. "That's Abeeza. He gets into your side through the basement."

And that's how Abeeza became our roommate.

I intentionally say "roommate," because he was not "our" cat, even after Rainbow moved out and left Abeeza behind. Abeeza belonged to no man. But he was happy to call our apartment his new home, take food from us, come and go as he pleased, kill things (this was before we knew about cats v. songbirds, don't judge), occasionally accept petting, and attack us regularly. He was a complete jerk. And we loved him. 

(Note: Yes, we know now that Abeeza is actually spelled "Ibiza," but we were 21 years old and didn't know that Ibiza was a place that existed in the world so we spelled it phonetically so shuddup.)

Abeeza would climb into our laps when we were on the couch, kneading us with exceptionally sharp claws, and we would grin and bear the pain, because love is pain and we accepted Abeeza as his full self. Sometimes Abeeza would allow us to pet him when he did this, and then he'd stick his nose in our armpits and drool, thoroughly enjoying the experience. After an indiscriminate amount of time—it could be an hour, could be two minutes—he would subtly stop moving, his pupils dilating. At this point, if we continued petting him, he would grab our arm in a bear hug with all four limbs and turn into an INSANE DEMON, biting and clawing and scratching for all he was worth. If we caught the signs in time, we would immediately stop petting him, terrified, and wait. He'd usually stare at us like he was going to kill us later in our sleep and then hop down off our laps, though sometimes we'd get attacked regardless.

(Side story, one time when my mom was visiting, Abeeza schnarfed on her for a bit and then froze, his eyes dilating, prompting my mother to whimper, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.")

Abeeza's favorite sport was jumping  dramatically out from behind a piece of furniture to attack us. It was like we were regulars on Punk'd. He was mercurial and vengeful and surprisingly cuddly and just about the best cat in the whole wide world.

There is something so very appealing about a creature that fully embodies his true self, and could give jack shit about what you thought of him. 

When we moved from the duplex to our new place in the Clinton District, Abeeza came along. He claimed his new territory by systematically going from porch to porch, bitchslapping any resident cat into flight, sitting there for a few minutes, and then starting over at the next house.

I began my dog training journey about a year after Abeeza started freeloading with us. I didn't have my own dog at that point, so I tried clicker training the cat. He was a moody and impatient student, but I nevertheless was able to put several behaviors on-cue. I would say "sit" and he would size me up critically, decide to sit of his own volition a full ten seconds later, and accept a salmon treat. (When I eventually brought Obie home as a tiny puppy, I actually had to stop training Abeeza, because the moment I got the clicker out, he would purposefully scare Obie away, wanting to be the only  positively reinforced pet in the house.)

When we brought Timber home,  Abeeza was all "....yeah no" and moved into the basement with our roommate Brad. Several years later, Brad moved out and Abeeza went with him, happy to get away from the dogs and live his sunset years absolutely adored by Brad and his husband Dan. 

So that's all I know about cats.


Talk to these people instead.

Virtual Cat Training, Behavior Consults, and Online Courses:

Learn more about cat training...

Read: Decoding Your Cat by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Read: Kitty Language: An Illustrated Guide to Understanding Your Cat by Lili Chin

Read: How to Train a Cat: The Ultimate Cat Training Guide, Emily Hall, Cat School

Read: Claw This Journal by Sassafras Lowry Donna Hill, Dogs Explained

Watch: Albert & Mia, the Adventure Bengal Cat, Outdoor Bengal

Watch: Chirpy Cats, Yasaar Nakchbendi

Listen: Podcasts, Tabitha Kucera, Chirrups and Chatter

Listen: It's Training Cats & Dogs, Naomi Rotenberg, Praiseworthy Pets

Cat Training for Bogart

Here's Bogart. And yes, my friend and I did hire a professional photographer to capture our kitties, thank you for asking.