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While positive reinforcement is always my first choice in working with cats, many times very frightened/under-socialized cats will not accept food, play, a happy tone of voice, petting, or any interaction at all with humans. If nothing you offer the cat is rewarding in that moment, how do you gain the cat’s trust? I have found a behavior modification protocol using negative reinforcement to be very effective in these situations. I am using the term “negative reinforcement” in the strict sense of removing something to increase the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated. I do not use aversives in this behavior modification protocol. My goal is always to move the cat as quickly as possible to a state where he or she is able to accept positive reinforcement. Learning Objectives A very quick review of the four quadrants of negative and positive reinforcement and punishment, as used in discussing operant conditioning. Why positive reinforcement might not work for some cats in some situations. What kinds of cats/situations might do better with negative reinforcement. Why negative reinforcement might work for those cats. A step-by-step explanation of a negative reinforcement behavior modification protocol for working with cats in a home environment. I will use the case study of one of my own cats as the framework for describing this protocol. I will point out where I customized the protocol for this cat, for clients’ cats, and how it can be customized for each individual cat. Emphasis is on meeting each cat where they are. How a negative reinforcement behavior modification protocol is used to lead the cat to a state where he or she can accept positive reinforcement for further behavior modification work. If time permits, some tips on other ways to help a frightened/under-socialized cat adapt to a new home.
Sponsor:Pet Professional Guild