Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On The Topic of Pets and Beds: Spot Training Your Pet


While I have many exciting companies and products to share with you, I want to remind our loyal readers that we are not just a Pet 'Review' Blog. I love answering question and offering advice on pets of the feline and canine variety- Time Out For Truffles was created in hopes of helping other pet owners, bringing a few smiles to your face with adorable pics, and enriching your fur friends' lives with amazing pet innovation features. I'm not a specialist, and I do not get paid to write this blog- so, while I always recommend consulting your Veterinarian for advice, I do offer a genuine opinion from a loving pet parent. I may not be able to post every day- though I try, but I do promise to put as much time and thought into an advice post as a review (maybe not a Wordless Wednesday though, haha).

Recently someone wrote us at thecat@timeouttruffles.com with the following question:

"Hi Truffles and Friends,

I have a 2 year old tabby named Mick that has always been welcome on my bed. Recently he has begun taking over my pillow at night. He is a 12lb cat, so rather big, and almost pushes me off my pillow. Our 'agreement' has always been that Mick gets the bottom half of the bed, but I'm worried disciplining him might give off the wrong impression. I don't want him to think he's not allowed on the bed at all! Help!

Sincerely, Patty"

Well, Patty- aside from any debates about the potential health hazards/pros or cons of allowing a pet to sleep in a human bed (which is another article in itself), we generally keep our pets of the bed at night. That being said, we do permit them to socialize with us when we are awake and in bed, and there is a defined territory, much like you indicated the bottom half of the bed was a 'pet zone'.

Believe it or not, no matter the age, cat or dog, the training process will be pretty much the same. You should operate on praise much more than negative reinforcement. You are correct to assume that scolding Mick might make him hesitant to socialize on the bed, or even in the room. Animals are quick to build negative associations and, once established, these can be hard perceptions to break. It  also sounds like something may have triggered Mick to begin claiming more territory, so to speak. Consider the introduction of new pets, guests, or family member. If nothing has changed in that dynamic, then consider if your pets old stomping grounds/rest spots have been altered or compromised in integrity. Animals, especially cats, can be quite picky about where they'll rest. They often have to feel safe, and close to (or able to monitor) other animals and people nearby.

Believe it or not you can actually train your cat to quite a specific range of 'acceptable' territory. For instance, the couch could be off territory, but perhaps you allow the animal to rest on the top, or the arms, of the couch. Animals can easily comprehend these restrictions. Training is easiest if you have a toy or pad/bed that is kept in your animals primary resting spot. If you do not happen to have anything that your animal claims, in this area, it might be a good idea to invest in it. For example, if your cat sits on a specific armchair, place a thin pet bed pad or blanket where your cat normally sits. Then, in the evening, be sure to spend some awake time in your bedroom. Place the blanket/pad where you wish your cat to lounge (in this care the lower half of the bed). Place your cat on the blanket/pad. Whenever your cat moves, be sure to allow it to come to a rest (stop moving) before you make any attempts to re-align the behavior. Without negative reinforcement, pick Mick up and set him down on the pad, offering some affection and love.

Repeat this process, moving the pad/blanket from Mick's daily spots to the bottom of the bed at night. Eventually you should be able to remove the bed/pad all together and Mick should naturally be re-trained regarding his boundaries. If you have a bit of resistance at first (such as the cat running away after being replaced consider adding treats into reinforcement. Start by offering one treat when you set him on the pad, and another each time you re-place the cat back on the pad. Good luck!


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