Friday, August 20, 2010

Training Humans


by Thunder the Wonder Cat

Hi, this is Thunder. I have asked Judi to type an article for me.

I have been working on training Judi for over 3 years, now. Lately, I have a new trick that I have been working on with her. The bathroom window is too high for me to jump up to, but I am trying to get her to lift me up on command.

At first, I would lead her in the bathroom, and encourage her to lift me. She would trial new behaviors, like opening the shower doors, petting me or holding me. One day, she accidently put me in the window. Hurray! She trialed the right behavior! I gave her a lot of positive reinforcement by purring and rubbing my face on her chin. When training humans, positive reinforcement is very important.

I then jumped down and ran out. She followed me. Now, it was time to try again. I led her back in and tried the whole routine, again. This time, it didn’t take as long for her to figure out what I wanted. Once again, I gave her positive reinforcement.

Now, I needed to practice the new trick. We would do it 4-5 times in a row. She started to get good, so I put it on a cue. All I need to do, now, is walk up to the window, look up, and she lifts me up. It didn’t take that long. Humans learn very quickly with positive reinforcement.

In the mornings, before she leaves to go to work, she now will put me in the window, even if I don’t ask. That way, I can do my morning window hunting from this window, and later move to the dining room window to hunt.

I also use negative reinforcement to train her. Negative reinforcement means taking away a pressure as a reinforcer. It is often used with horses. The best pressure I have is my voice. I will meow and meow until she comes running. When she does, I stop crying to reinforce her behavior. As a bonus to shape her behavior, I then add some purring and cuddling to reward her (more positive reinforcement) and encourage her to come whenever I call her.

I do use punishment to train her, too, but very seldom. Too much punishment would just make her not want to spend time in training.

There are 2 types of punishment. Positive punishment is adding something uncomfortable to stop her from doing something. When she rubs me by my tail, I will meow at her, and then she will stop. If she tries to rub my belly, and I’m not in the mood, I will grab her hand and bite it. Negative punishment is when you remove something good as punishment. The only time I use this is when she tries to groom me. I remove myself—the greatest punishment, possible.

As you see, using basic learning theory, a cat can train a human to do tricks and be more useful. By using as much positive reinforcement as possible, the human enjoys it, looks forward to training and may even think the whole thing is a game.

Keep this in mind, all you cats out there, when you want to train your human.

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