shelter trainer speaking with caption 'and we can teach them to do things like not jump on the counters' (l) shelter trainer speaking with caption 'we have to understand how cats learn' (c) shelter trainer speaking with caption 'so you need to give your cat the appropriate places to do that' (r)

@aceengel/TikTok Remix by Caterina Cox

‘We have to understand how cats learn’: Shelter trainer shows how to teach your cat to stop jumping on the counter

'But how do you redirect them BITING YOUR FACE AT 3 AM.'


Parks Kugle


Posted on Dec 8, 2023   Updated on Dec 8, 2023, 11:12 am CST

Owning a cat can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse for your furniture. Luckily, a director of adoption for a Michigan cat rescue has the secret to teaching your cat.

TikToker Abby (@aceengel) filmed her video surrounded by the cats of Pet Angel Adoption. The clip received over 1.6 million views as of publication, and viewers flooded the comments section with questions and anecdotes about their furry family members.

“Our cats are totally trainable, and we can teach them to do things like not jump on the counters, not bite us, not chew on cords, not climb the curtains, not scratch on the back of the couch,” Abby explained. “But the way that most owners are doing it is not the way that our cat is learning, and that’s why your cat continues to do the behaviors inappropriately.”

“Cats do not learn by negative reinforcement like dogs, for example, do,” she continued. “They don’t understand that when you yell at them, when you spray them with water, when you push them off the counter, when you chase them with the Christmas tree—they don’t understand that you are doing that because of their actions.”

According to the director at Pet Angel Adoption, teaching your cat is more about positive reinforcement and creating space for them to engage in scratching, chewing, jumping onto high places, and playing.

“Some of the behavior that we get mad at our cats for are things that cats naturally have to do. … So you need to give your cat the appropriate places to do that. You need to give them things they’re allowed to be up high on; you need to give them things that they’re allowed to scratch on; and then you need to have prize-possession toys.”

Prize-possession toys are “toys that they only get once in a while,” and you use them to gently train your cat by using the toy or treats whenever they engage in positive behavior. She also suggested celebrating with them, even if you have to redirect them to an approved spot. Then, continue with positive reinforcement until you see results.

For counters, Abby suggested a simple solution—give them somewhere high up to sit.

“Now, you can use this with anything. If your cat’s really interested in, like, the kitchen space, put a stool in the kitchen that your cat is allowed to be on. Put them on the stool; put treats on the stool; allow them to be on the stool. If they go on the counter, redirect them to the stool,” she added.

@aceengel You can teach your cat to stop being a meniace, but its all about the WAY you do it to get results. Throw away the spray bottle, because its never going to work. Positive reinforcement and redirection is the way to go! #catrescue #cattips #cattraining #catownertips #petangel #catscratching #cats ♬ original sound – Abby

Grateful for the great advice, viewers asked for extra tips on their cats’ unique behaviors.

“But how do you redirect them BITING YOUR FACE AT 3 AM,” a desperate viewer asked.

“My problem is that my cats are incredibly food motivated. if there is a drip of grease on the stove or a tiny scrap of food in the sink they want it,” a second remarked.

“My cat opens my cabinets and eats my food. I need a cat whisperer,” another implored.

A cat’s brain occupies less than 1% of its body. However, it does have a structure that’s 90% similar to a human brain. This means cats have the ability to understand, respond, and manipulate their surroundings. Cats can recall information and learn from it, so it’s not uncommon for a cat to learn how to open cabinets or turn on a light.

Due to cats’ curious nature, they have a natural need for mental stimulation. Giving them interactive cat puzzles and playing with them regularly can help redirect energy that could get directed to your furniture. Training a cat takes patience and can help strengthen your bond.

Unfortunately, the training may not save your current furniture. If all else fails, you can always buy fabrics cats don’t like to scratch.

The Daily Dot reached out to Abby via email for further information.

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*First Published: Dec 8, 2023, 7:30 pm CST