How Cats Learn?

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Curious about how cats learn? In order to better understand your cat's behavior, it is helpful to learn how a cat learns about his environment.

To increase their chances of survival, cats combine a series of learned and instinctive behaviors. Cats are quite good at learning specific behaviors by watching other cats, particularly their mothers. Learning by observation works best in kittens and young cats. However, older cats can learn as well, but it may take a little longer.


Cats, like many other animals, can learn by accident, or trial and error. When our cat, Tiger, tried to get on top of the kitchen cabinets, he learned that the only way to get there was to: jump on top of the counter top, fridge and then cabinet. But on his first attempt, he tried to jump straight from the counter top to the top of the cabinet, and it didn't work.

There are also two types of conditioned responses that affect a cat behavior.

  1. The first is called classical conditioning. It occurs when a cat learns on a subliminal level to perform certain behavior when given a certain stimulus. An example of classical conditioning is when I open a can, no matter what kind of can, my cats ran into the kitchen looking for food.
  2. The second is called operant conditioning. It occurs when a cat learns to repeat a certain behavior that is followed by some sort of reward, or to avoid a behavior. Tiger learned to sit down every time I ask. He knows that he will get a cat treat. He also learned to stay away from my plants, or he will get air blast from the SSS Cat™.



This is the main technique used to train cats to perform tricks and to stop performing undesirable behaviors.

Remember, good behaviors should be reinforced, whereas unwanted behaviors are either replaced with more desirable ones or else averted by an unpleasant one.

Note, punishment and reprimands does not work, it can cause more behavior issues than you already have.


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