It’s not true that cats have no guilt. They do have a guilt trigger. But it’s only pulled by our showing disappointment, and them giving a damn. If they have no regard for us, they don’t care what we think.
If we are punitive and angry about what they have done, they will think we don't like them. They will not connect it with what they have done. Anger towards a cat will always damage the relationship. It will not result in better behavior.
So the best thing we can do to have a well behaved cat is to have a well loved cat. They will then care if they made us unhappy.
If we do come home to something disappointing, go ahead and mourn over it. This is actually a more effective strategy to help the cat understand their role in what happened than trying to punish them.
They are totally innocent of any bad intentions, so don’t transfer our ill feeling about any accidents to the cat. They won’t understand and they will be hurt by what is, to them, our inexplicable coldness.
We can’t do anything after the fact, but we can be a guide to proper behavior when we are around. Staying in touch, warning them off unsafe practices, and praising them for good behaviors actually works. It’s not that cats are immune to such blandishments. It has to have a foundation of a close bond so we can increase our influence.
All this guidance shouldn’t be a one way street. While we are training them to ignore our valuables, stay off the counters in the kitchen, and not eviscerate the toilet paper, they should be training us, too.
Listen to them when they let us know where they like the litter box, what kind of food is their favorite, how they like to be petted and when. If they approach us with a request, even if it’s just a longing look, we should make our best effort to figure out what it is they want, and give it to them.
While we are training them, we can keep them feeling as though they trained us. In fact, I recommend it. The best relationships are mutual, after all.
That is the key to successful cat training; the successful negotiation of each other’s wishes to create a harmonious atmosphere for both of us.
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