September 24, 2015
I get a lot of questions about Didga, Boomer, training cats, and (sometimes) me.
Here are the Q & A’s
First, a little about me: I’m an American now dual citizen, living on the Gold Coast of Australia. I moved here from Los Angeles/Ventura area. I’ve been a professional animal trainer / behaviourist for over 35 years. (If you’d like to learn more detail about me and my training experience, click here
Once arriving in Australia, I opened my dog training business “Malibu Dog Training” – conducting private one-on-one lessons. I had extra time on my hands so I started making YouTube videos using my clients dogs. It was during this time I was longing to get another cat and start another YouTube channel “CATMANTOO” (I’m a dog person/trainer but I’m a CATMANTOO) to educate people about cats. I was hoping to dispel many of the myths associated with cats, i.e. like they can’t be “trained”, they need to roam to be happy, they need to be declawed so they don’t scratch the furniture (unfortunately declawing is still practiced in the U.S.) and many other myths. The cat I was looking to adopt was going to be an ambassador for shelter cats, so I needed a confident cat to teach amazing things to, this will help bring attention to my channel and the causes. At the shelter I looked at many kittens but this cute little energetic and confident 13 weeks old kitten caught my attention the most, she was just the cat I was looking for.
Side Rant: Between the over 35 years of animal training experience, experience in the animal acting film industry and making videos for all my clients, plus living here in beautiful Australia, and most importantly, finding an amazing cat like Didga. This is the “purrfect” storm for what I do on CATMANTOO. So please DON’T “try” with your cat many of the things you see Didga and Boomer do, and understand that lot’s of time, weeks, months, even years is put in before filming even starts. I would feel bad if your cat got injured or you “forced” them to do something they didn’t like. Even something like walking a cat on the leash requires patients and a specific teaching technique that needs to be followed. If you’re expecting immediate results when teaching animals, especially cats, then you’re doing it wrong.
If you would like to learn how to teach your cat the basics, watch the tutorials available on my YouTube channel. @catmantoo https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL13_PCMfTxmyp0mrc3yx5CKjEAnAJpflr
Now Q & A’s for Didga & Boomer and training
Q #1. How old is Didga? [Did-ja] A: 5 years old. Born January 1st, 2012
Q #2. Is Didga a boy or girl?
A: A GIRL. FYI – In many Countries, if the first name ends in an “A” it generally means female/feminine
Q #3. Why the name “Didga”?
A: Didga is short for Didgeridoo (Australian musical instrument). I came up with the name while on my way to pick her up at the shelter. There’s a breathing exercise I learned while learning to play the Didgeridoo, the exercises went like this, “DIDGA, DA-DIDGA BREATH”. (repeat several times). that’s when it came to me.
Q #4. What breed is Didga:
A: Domestic shorthair/Tabby
(About ‘Boomer’) short for Boomerang, born May 9th. 2015 He is a “Bengal”. They are one of several breeds considered “high maintenance” and not recommended for “cat people” as they are more “dog like” in temperament requiring lot’s of your time & energy. They also need space to run off their excessive energy. Although some Bengals are very affectionate maybe even cuddly, I’ve heard from other Bengal owners that although their cats may be somewhat affectionate (on their own terms) most of them said they wouldn’t consider them to be “lap cats”, and don’t really like being picked up (held). One lady in particular told me that after 10 years their Bengal finally came over and sat on their lap, and never got used to being picked up. But I wasn’t looking for a “lap cat” Because of my dog training background, I was looking for more of a “dog like” cat to take on adventure, plus teach a bunch of things to. Sure, there are other “dog like” breeds/mixes I could have adopted, but to be honest, I wanted a challenge, I wanted to see what I can do with what’s considered the most teachable cat breed, so for professional purposes only. The good news is I now can share more things about the Bengal breed you may not find during your own research. So if you’re considering the breed and would like to learn a little more…. click (this link/page is under construction, give me a little time to complete)
Q #5: Are cats ever too old to learn?
A: No, cats can learn at any age. obviously there are things you should be aware of, like physical limitations on young kittens and older cats (geriatric), also mental memory limitations. the optimum age for teaching them is between 5 months to 3 years Adjust the training accordingly. What’s more important than age is technique (Follow my tutorials to learn the right technique)
Q #6 Can any cat be trained?
A: Pretty much yes, but cats with higher “food drive” will learn faster. Younger cats (under 2.5 years) are more active and generally have a higher food drive and are generally less fussy about what they eat. Older cats (over 2.5 years) generally are less active and will eat less, and are generally fussy about what they eat. Less training sessions = slower rate of learning. With older or food finicky cats you need to raise the value of their rewards to keep their attention.
Q #6: How do I get my cat interested in food/treats?
A: Even the most finicky eaters eat something, try a gamier meat to entice them, and most important make “training” times the only times they eat. you’ll notice your cat is more active and will start to pay attention during training sessions.
Q #7: What kind of food/treats do I recommend?
A: I can only tell you what I use for Didga and Boomer. 90% RAW MINCE and the rest a high quality holistic kibble & can food. Cats are meat eaters, the gamier the meat the better. Raw being best, I don’t buy “human grade” because I noticed a behaviour change after feeding it to Didga for 6 days. Her energy level went down.
High quality raw foods may be a little bit more expensive but I always say, pay for it now in high quality food or pay for it later in vet bills.
There is a raw dog food company out there called B.A.R.F. Biologically appropriate raw food and I had Didga on that for a year until I found a a raw mince that Didga went crazy for and is what I still feed today.
Because I do a lot of training, I buy the food frozen, measure out portions in individual bags and freeze for later use. I place the bags in my “bait bag” and use a spoon to deliver smaller bite size rewards.( It’s weird to be vegetarian but feed your cat mostly raw meat.) In summer hot months or for cats that don’t drink a lot of water, add water to the raw food.
NOTE: Whenever abruptly changing an animals diet, it should be done gradually over a two week period.
Q: Are some breeds easier to teach than others?
A: Sort of, but there can be other reasons ‘known’ teachable breeds aren’t as teachable. “BOOMER” (a bengal) known to be one of the most teachable cat breeds isn’t as teachable as Didga, especially once we get outside with all the distractions. (At this stage of his life, things can change as he ages?) or it could be I’m just spoiled from having a special cat like Didga? (from the shelter). What’s probably more important than a particular breed is “high food drive” cats with it can learn faster and can learn more things. This is a big factor of Didga’s amazing talent.
Q: Do I let my cats roam free (unsupervised) at all?
A: NO WAY! They are both indoor/leashed outdoor cats, however because they’re trained, and as they get older, I can allow them off the lead to explore and for filming purposes in specific areas but only under direct supervision.
Q: Do I answer people’s training/behavior questions on here or other social media pages, i.e. Facebook, etc.?
A: Sorry, not that often because I get many questions, and there is no time to answer them, besides I shy away from answering because as a behaviourist Its important to get a lot of other information about their home environment before determining the best course of action to take. When I did home lessons, I needed to spend about and hour and a half with the clients, so a quick email with a question isn’t professional, besides, that’s why I made this FAQ and why I make tutorials.
Q: How do you get two animals to get along?
A: I made a video tutorial with tips for a dog and cat relations (video on my YouTube channel.) For introducing a cat to an existing cat(s), look for the post on this website.
Q: Why are your cats so comfortable outside and not afraid like other cats?
A: It helped that they were both confident and showed little fear as kittens, also I taught them to walk on leash and other tricks using lot’s of food reinforcement, this helped build their confidence even further. Clicker training is a great way to creates a more positive association to scary things. exposing them gradually to those things they fear using the clicker and high value food (or play) to reward them, if they don’t eat or play when exposed to the fearful thing, you’re probably trying to hurry up the process. FYI – it can take many many weeks of practice to get them over fear, and that’s if you’re doing everything right. NOTE: First I took them around in their pet carrier, getting them used to the sites and sounds of places, usually the same places everyday. while there, I practice their training (outside the carrier) behaviours that were first taught in the home, As I noticed them improving and showing less fear, they more time would be spent out of the carrier, until I only needed the carrier on occasion (eventually not at all). Be aware that the carrier idea only work if they love being in their carrier, I’m sorry but I don’t have a tutorial on that… yet.
AGAIN: That’s why I’ve made several training, and a few behavioural training tutorials (for cats & dogs) available (free) on my YouTube channel. I will have other training advice available to read on my website, and social media pages where I occasionally give advice. Follow/subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram @catmantoo
Q: If I come visit you, how can I meet the cats?
A: If you’re ever in Coolangatta Australia? a good chance to find us is across from the Reflections Towers (McDonalds) along the bike path, usually 3 times per week. Wednesday, Friday and especially Sunday – late afternoons from approx 1630 to 1800 QLD time. you can message me to alert me you’re coming.
Q: How do we help spread the word about Didga, Boomer and the catmantoo page?
A: “Sharing” it’s the best way to spread the word about us, you can also share our content with the pages you follow (or messenger) 🙂 Clicking the “likes” button and making comments, all is appreciated and I really do try to read them all. (POSTING TIP) To increase the chance of your friends seeing your posts (you may already know this?) is to “like” your own posts, and if you comment on your own post fb see’s this as activity on the post which gives the post priority to be seen by more people.
Q: If we see one of your videos on another page with no visible tag to your page (catmantoo) what can we do to alert you to it?
A: you can tag us in the comments @catmantoo or send us a link to the page. or take a screen shot? basically I just need the name of the page and date of post. It doesn’t happen “as” frequent, but my videos used to get stolen all the time, especially Didga skateboarding at the skate park, OMGoodness! Every week for over a year I found at least 5 stolen copies of my videos, most were the skateboarding video.
That’s all for now, I do add new Q & A’s on occasion so keep checking back.
If you’re still reading this, comment below with a “hello” and where you’re from? or if you have anything to add, maybe a question you think should be answered above. again sorry if I don’t answer your question.
NEW POST/EDIT – I have a question for you, what do you think about me starting a Patreon page? If I can get enough support, this will free up some time to make more videos tutorials & answer peoples questions. This is probably something I should have done from the beginning having invested a lot of time already, making tutorials, and not making much from YouTube, usually between $150 and $200 a year. (I can make that in one to two dog training lessons). Basically, I haven’t asked for your help because I don’t like asking for help, besides I was making good money with the dog training so I didn’t need any help. what’s changed is I’m not doing the dog training because I’m trying to make some good videos and good posts for our social media. So I’m just “thinking” about Patreon (just thinking about it). BTW – the tutorials I would like to make (or re-edit) are 1. Boundary training 2. The best way to introducing a new cat to your current cat(s) 3. A behaviour tutorial on aggression 4. Litter box problem (solving) 5. Pet carrier training PLUS whatever trick training tutorials people want like, sit-up, roll-over, skateboarding, etc. Anyway, let me know if there is interest and I will decide what to do.
Thanks for listening
Robert, Didga and Boomer