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Invisible Pet

What is the Invisible Cat?
(A = It's a strategy)

Cats who are adored by their owners, quickly find out how to get what they want. They they begin to do these things to get whatever it is they want at the time.  When they become invisible, they quickly find out how to deliver what  the owner wants, so as to become visible again.

The "Invisible Cat" is a behavioral modification technique recommended for some cats.  The goal of this technique is to avoid the need for punishment by making human attention more valuable.  If the cat can get human attention at will, that attention becomes less valuable, and therefore less of a reward. 

The Invisible Cat is also useful during some behavior modification strategies as a buffer between the OLD way things were, and the NEW way things are going to be.

Essentially, the Invisible Cat means that for 1 week intervals, (until the cat can pass the test below) everyone in the home pretends the cat is invisible, unless it is doing "work." (work is explained below)

Exactly what do I do?
(A = It's what you don't do that counts)

During this period, unless the cat is working, the owner must act as if the cat does not existPretend the cat is invisible.  This means:

  • do not greet the cat at the door (just walk on by if the cat cannot SIT to earn a greeting)
  • do not pet the cat when it lays its head in your lap - or any time it "asks" [1]
  • do not play with the cat when it brings you a toy
  • do not make eye contact with the cat (unless the cat is working)
  • do not speak to the cat (except to give a command)
  • do not respond to any request for attention or interaction
  •  do not punish the cat (if necessary put the cat in time-out)
  •  provide food and water without comment at the normal times

When can I give attention during this period?
(A = when the cat is working for praise)

You can give the cat attention only WHILE the cat is working.  A cat "works" when he or she is doing something you asked the cat to do.

You can talk to, reassure, and pet the cat while it is actually

  • doing a Sit-Stay or Down-Stay you requested
  • in the act of responding to any command you give
  • resting quietly in the pet's portable kennel or any other place you designate
  • chewing on an approved chew
  • waiting to go through any door

How does the cat become "visible" again?
(A = By passing a test)

The cat "earns" becoming visible again, by demonstrating that it will work for praise in a novel situation.  Here is the test:

Take the cat to a safe area where you do not commonly give commands.  A specific area in the back yard or an unused tennis court works nicely.  Without any food treats, ask the cat to perform every command it knows, but at least Come and Sit (Down and Stay optional.)  The only reward is your praise, and the cat must happily respond within 2 seconds of each command.  If this test is passed, then the cat becomes visible for a month.  If the cat does not value praise enough to do these simple jobs, (during any test) he or she returns to 1 additional week of being "invisible" and learning that human praise and attention are very valuable commodities.

It is too difficult - I can't ignore my cat!

This technique is often difficult on owners but is a very important step in the behavior modification recommended for your cat.  Many cats for a short period do get worse before they get better.  When he or she gradually realizes that their happiness is "earned" it will get easier.  It is in our nature to occasionally make mistakes and be frustrated.  Be strong and stick with the program!

[1] At greetings, ask the cat to SIT.  If it does sit, then crouch and greet briefly.  If the cat cannot sit, just walk on by.

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