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Training a Cat

August 21, 2012

Cats — like people — are driven by different things.

It makes sense, of course, because each of them have different personalities. My big boy, Gus, is a cave dweller, loving to slink around corners, sleep under blankets and hide when company comes over. My little girl, Zoey, is the high-flying extrovert who loves nothing more than to greet people at the front door and torment my dog.

Lilly, my little Miss Sunshine and Storm, is probably my oddest character of all. She wants love when she wants it, greets visitors, but makes it clear that she doesn’t necessarily want their attention, and loves to play, but not with the other cats.

She is also my longest-haired kitty, but absolutely hates to have her long, silky locks brushed. I think it’s a little bit that the brush tugs her hair and a bit that she is easily over stimulated. After all, she is quick to smack you if she thinks you are petting her a bit too much, a bit too long or a bit too hard.

The problem is that her long, silky locks tend to mat in the spring and summer when she sheds her coat. The hair gets caught in her coat and she ends up with dreads or tangles of stiff, oily hair at the base of her tail. What her coat doesn’t hold onto, she swallows only to regurgitate in the form of enormous, wet hairballs.

I am loath to shave her beautiful coat, but I know that I need to deal with the mats. So I tried a little of everything.

I got a FURminator. She hated it.

I bought a shedding mitt, only to find it didn’t remove the hair and she hated it.

I tried a comb. She hissed.

I even tried treats. Usually, I can get Lilly to submit to almost anything — shoving pills down her throat, having medicine squirted in her eye — with the promise of a treat.

Not this time. Even with treats in hand, she’d run when I tried to lure her close to a brush.

Exasperated, I was about to give in and make an appointment with a local groomer when I started flicking around the string cat toy. Lilly immediately responded, bouncing and pouncing and leaping. Within a few seconds, I had her completely enraptured with the toy. Within a few minutes, she was slowing down and looking for loves.

Just then, I had an idea.

Scooping her up, I put her on the bed and brushed her coat a few times with the FURminator before she let me know she had enough. Then I returned to the string toy to reward her for her patience.

Later in the day, I repeated the same process, pulling more loose hair from her coat.

And the next day.

And the next day.

By the end of the week, Lilly was following me into the bedroom every evening for a little play and a little grooming. I managed to work out all of the matted and oily hair from her coat, leaving her with only sleek, silky fur.

I can’t say that Lilly likes being groomed any more now than she did before, but now she tolerates it, knowing that she gets what she really wants in the end.

And in the process, I succeeded in training a cat.

Who would have thought?

Lilly may look irritated, but she is just concentrating on where the toy may go next.

Normally, Lilly is flying and flipping for this toy. That’s hard to get a picture of, though.

Lilly loves her string toy

Hair taken out of Lilly’s coat over the course of the week

From → Animals, Cats

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