Many people think that cats are not trainable, but this is a common misconception. Many cats are! But the differences between dogs and cats call for specific training techniques and approaches to achieve desired training goals.
Dogs are pack animals and they are always on the lookout for ways to please their owners and get their attention. On the other hand, although they are sociable, cats are wired to be independent, a trait that they have inherited from their wild ancestors. They also have a very short attention span compared to dogs; thus, cat training sessions should be short. Consistency and repetition are important because cats have a much longer memory than dogs. Unlike cats, dogs can undergo group training. Dogs are also able to endure long training sessions to help with their recall. Whatever may be the training approach that you will use for each, always remember that both dogs and cats enjoy training sessions in which positive reinforcement is used.
A study that involved counting the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex (part of the brain) of several types of carnivores, including cats and dogs, showed that dogs have significantly more cortical neurons compared to cats. The results showed that among the mammals that were included in the study, dogs possess the highest number of neurons even though they don’t have the largest brain. Dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million’ cortical neurons (also called little gray cells) play an important role in the animal’s thinking, planning, and behavior, which are all trademarks of intelligence.
Dogs are pack animals; they thrive when they live, work, and play in groups. This is an important reason why a dog can easily fit into a family. They see their pet owner as the pack leader whom they look up to for care, guidance, and protection.
On the other hand, cats possess a strong independent streak. Their wild ancestors hunt alone, a trait that has been inherited by pet cats. Aside from their basic needs, pet cats don’t rely too much on their humans. They love spending their time alone. But this doesn’t mean you cannot break the ice. To connect with your furball, you need to take the first step and spend time in regular interactions with your pet.
Dogs are generally viewed as easier to train. With a dog’s strong pack mentality, he is eager to follow the orders of his alpha dog (the owner); this is what makes dogs more obedient and compliant. The process of training a dog involves teaching and reinforcement to achieve desired results. Dogs are also eager to please so they won’t have second thoughts about performing or displaying the desired behavior, especially if they know that their favorite treat is up for grabs. However, just like humans, dogs differ in their mental aptitude. Some breeds are smarter than others; some take more readily to training sessions than others. The temperaments of some breeds may also require specific training strategies to be employed to achieve desired results.
For most dogs, training is an enjoyable activity. It motivates them physically and mentally and gives them a sense of purpose. They see training as a job, and most dogs are happy to work, especially when there are lots of positive reinforcement that is involved. What dog can resist his favorite treat in exchange for simply sitting, staying, coming, rolling over, laying, down, or whatever the command may be? Reaping the rewards of good behavior can give dogs a sense of pride. It’s also a great confidence booster!
Also read: How to Train Your Dog on Your Own
When it comes to training, cats are also trainable, but not as easy as dogs. Even cat lovers will admit that it is easier to train a dog than a cat. Even the most food-motivated cats can easily get tired of training sessions and won’t hesitate to walk away. Cat training demands tons of patience and consistency so they will remember. Establishing boundaries is an important focus of cat training.
The techniques that are used when training cats and dogs have some differences. Also, cats are less inclined to work in partnership even with their favorite humans.
Showering lavish praise is an important form of positive reinforcement when training cats and dogs. But when you compare their responses to being praised, dogs are likely to eat it all up while cats couldn’t care less. Unlike dogs, cats are not as highly motivated by praise. For cat training, positive reinforcement is best given in the form of the cat’s favorite treats instead of praise.
When it comes to housetraining, cats are better than dogs because they already possess a strong instinct to use the litter box. Oftentimes, the only housetraining a new cat needs is being shown where the litter boxes are located. A cat that keeps on committing potty accidents or inappropriate elimination can possibly be suffering from an underlying health issue and needs to be brought to the attention of a veterinarian.
On the other hand, potty training dogs can be more challenging, especially puppies. It will take time, constant repetition, consistency, and positive reinforcement to teach a dog where to go potty.
One important feature which is present in both dog and cat training is positive reinforcement. It is important to remember that when it comes to training, both cats and dogs don’t respond to negative reinforcement and punishment. Punishment is counterproductive. It causes stress which is a potent fuel for problem behaviors in cats. New behaviors can easily be learned with positive, reward-based training regimens.