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Operant Conditioning Cat Training

'Operant conditioning cat training" is training cats to do something by giving them a reward for doing it. That is it in its most simplest sense and is an example of positive reinforcement in operant conditioning designed to get a cat to do something. It is the best form it seems to me. Others are negative reinforcement (removal of something that is not nice to cat) to get a cat to do something, positive punishment (squirting water at cat) also designed to stop a cat doing something and negative punishment (removing something that cat likes) to stop a cat doing something. I say never punish a cat.

In a basic way, it actually happens naturally and informally. I'll give an example. You go up to your cat with an empty cat bowl. Cat responds by following you to the kitchen where you put food in the bowl and place in the floor.  The bowl is a focus. The cat knows its production will lead to food so she follows you to the kitchen. The action trained is following you to the kitchen. The positive reinforcement is the food.

Cats train us in a similar way. A cat meows at us at a certain time of the day. Person responds by giving food to cat. Cat meows next day. Person fails to respond. Cat continues to meow. Person realizes that to get their cat to stop meowing he has to provide food so he does. Person is therefore trained to provide cat food when cat meows at certain times and in certain way.

In positive acts of cat training the trainer uses a stick as a focus and a clicker as a "bridge" to facilitate the training process and make it more manageable and successful. The clicker bridges the time between the cat doing something and receiving the reward, usually food. It achieves this by being more precise and quick so that the cat can connect the action being trained with the reward received. Timing in cat training is important so the clicker better enables the connections between action and reward to be made and it also connects the sound of the clicker with the reward, the food.


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