Creating a calm cat
The first step is to estimate approximately for how long you can pat your cat without the ‘aggression’ occurring – said another way – by maintaining the cat’s calm demeanour.
This is quite important, because the rest of the therapy will work to extend this time.
Lets assume the estimated time is two minutes.
Rewarding the calm cat
The next step is to establish what special food reward the cat will adore and to use this to elicit acceptable behaviour, as described shortly.
I suggest you try Nutrigel Paste, peanut paste, fish paste such as Anchovette Paste, liverwurst spread or caviar dip!
You should reserve this food reward for ‘therapy time’ only. To give it at any other time will lessen its effectiveness.
The finger-licking good routine
Now for the process. When your cat is seeking, or ready for, attention, start patting it, but use a stop watch to time your patting session.
If the ‘allocated patting time’ is, say, two minutes, then at one minute give the cat a food reward. It is especially useful if your cat licks the food reward directly from your finger rather than taking it directly from your hand.
The reason for this is that when the cat is licking the food from your finger, the reward is coming from you and it closely associated with you.
If you release the food treat, the food is disassociated from you.
When the two minutes has expired, immediately stop the attention and leave the cat alone by walking away or placing the cat on the ground if it is on your lap. It is important that you stop the patting before the cat gets irritable. It is also very useful if you can leave the cat ‘wanting more’ of the food treat and affection.
Repeat the ‘two minute tickle’ three to four times per day for about three days. It should always be you who calls an end to the cuddles and pats and not the cat. However, if the cat makes any indication that it wants to leave, do not attempt to stop it.
TiIf all is going well, extend the time. Increase it to three minutes with the food treat given close to the end of this time period at, say, two minutes. Now that the time is increasing, the object is to use the food treats to ‘buy more patting time’. While the cat may be getting to the limits of its tolerance, the food treat will suddenly evoke interest and distract the cat. This further extends the boundaries of the cat’s tolerance.
You will recall you previously found that two minutes was the cat’s normal limit to patting. The food is, firstly, causing an extension to this time and secondly, is positively rewarding the cat for appropriate behavior. Thirdly, you are the one who calls the end to the patting at the new, extended time and, lastly, the cat has not reinforced its ‘aggressive’ behaviour. That makes four wins for you and none for the cat. Congratulations!
The general principle is to now progressively extend the time of patting, with the food always coming towards the end of the patting session. Presenting food near the end will prolong the borrowed time. As success follows, gradually withdraw the food reward so the cat sometimes gets food and sometimes not. Food rewards used in such a fashion are very effective.
If Puss is unpredictable with its tolerance of the patting and sometime attacks, then you may need to add a gentle form of discipline to the program. If possible, try Time Out where the cat is placed in say, the laundry or bathroom but only for three to five minutes. The goal of Time Out is to reward the calmness, not to punish the aggression. More information