Discover more about Creating a Visual.
So when I say “hungry,” my cats visualize their food.
If we make this a deliberate communications strategy, we advance our understanding and speed up our training.
learn their ways
In my post, Any Cat, Two Training Categories, I explain that cats fall into two training categories; those who are environmentally cued, and those who are symbolically cued. One way of telling is to figure out what the cat is asking for, or what need is being fulfilled, by whatever they are doing.
Tristan is all about concepts. If he comes into the room and says something, he wants me to say something back, or give him a Cat Kiss, or otherwise enjoy transfers of affection. Because if Tristan wants something, he tends to get it himself, or make a fuss over the door he wants opened or the toy he wants me to play with. Tristan directly asking for interaction is how he asks for interaction.
But if RJ comes into the room, sits near, and stares into my eyes, he is making a request. I need to get up and let him Show Me what he wants. Because if RJ wants affection, he will climb into my lap and get some. I will notice he is hanging around, but he’s not meeting my eyes. He is monitoring the lap situation, and I can get myself settled and gesture him over so we can enjoy some cuddling.
It is only through interaction that we can discover how each cat communicates, but we can start with their Cat Types.
Cat Type tendencies
Tristan is a paws-on Alpha Cat Type, who likes to do things for himself. RJ is a social Beta Cat Type who sees his humans as the way to make things work. My much missed Smokepuff was a Gamma Cat Type. They hate to be a bother, and need their humans to ask them what they want.
So we can start there with interpreting our cat’s signals. Or, wondering why we aren’t getting any.
Our cat’s verbal ability can be helpful, if only to draw our attention to themselves. Tristan enjoys making different sounds to convey different things, but most cats prefer to use their own language; body language. Directing our attention to what they want, getting us to follow them to a pertinent location, and direct pawing at the cupboard in question are all ways they indicate their wishes.
When I try to communicate with my cats, I remind myself I am working with visualizations my cat has created that will match what I am saying. This was dramatically evident when I explained the excitement in the house about moving, to Tristan, without having any of my usual props to understanding. But my gestures, facial expressions, and verbal concepts added up to something for Tristan, who acted like my explanation made sense to him. He began acting on this new knowledge of our expanded space, like accompanying Mr WayofCats downstairs on a mail run, and showing him the New Door.
It helps that Tristan has a liking for exploration, and a deep interest in his human’s emotional state. The other cats were happy that we were excited, but since they couldn’t visualize the cause, they figured it did not concern them.
When we did move into the new space, Tristan had a real experience to tell them about. This time, they believed Tristan. Though, for a time, they didn’t go along with his enthusiasm, his greater ability to speak Cat created the visualizations they needed to start getting used to the ideas he was sharing.
understanding bad behavior
What we interpret as a “misbehaving” cat is often a cat who is asking for things the wrong way. It’s not that we don’t want our cat to have what they need. We often don’t know that a “need request” is what really taking place.
Our cats attempt to tell us what they need through Mime. So, playing with something they shouldn’t is best viewed as them demonstrating what they want.
If we give them a kitchen outpost, they will stop getting on the counters. If they are getting on our bookcases, they are asking for a cat tree with some height. If they keep trying to look through a window, they need a window to look out of.
This is a case of us being “given a visual.” We should take note.
Our cats will use body language with us, just as we tend to use verbal language with them. So when a cat demonstrates what they want, we cannot quibble about the need the cat is expressing. It is now our turn to convey that the way they have chosen is not workable, and offer them something better; what I call Yours and Mine.
Visualization is a powerful tool for both humans and cats. In our imagination, we can try things out. After we have some strategies in place we will have the confidence and flexibility to try the actual thing in actual space. Imagination has many gifts, but this is the most practical of them.
By calmly and consistently building a visual language in our cat’s head, we can connect the concepts we wish to explain. We and our cat can then meet in the middle, and get things accomplished in our shared space.
To share the special thrill of “what we have dreamed of” coming true in reality.
It is all a part of How to subtitle ourselves.
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There’s more to raising and training a cat with The Way of Cats than the article you are reading now. See my CAT TRAINING TIPS.