Things My Cat Has Trained Me To Do (and what your livestock teach you to do)

With Rachel in New York and me in Arizona, we spend a lot of time on the phone working together. These calls are often interrupted by my cat, Molly, tapping me on the leg and meowing so that I will follow her to her food dish and wiggle my fingers in her dry food bowl so that she can eat. It’s something I started doing when she was just 8 weeks old to show her where her food was. At 5 years old, she seems to think that’s a critical part of eating, so she asks me to do it every day, multiple times a day. Once she’s done eating, she comes to get me to follow her to the master bath where her water glass sits (yes, she prefers drinking out of glasses), so she can have a drink. She also leads me to the door when she wants out, and she chooses one of the five different doors leading outside depending on what she feels like doing. Since sitting is now considered “the new smoking” I appreciate her getting me up and moving throughout the work day.

She also demonstrates her concern for my health by making sure I take walks. When she’s outside she meows at the door and when I open it to let her in, she makes a quick turn and heads to the yard, looking over her shoulder, expecting me to follow. She keeps this up until I walk with her. She also keeps me limber by climbing onto high things (trees, bookshelves, the roof) and then meowing to indicate that I should bend over so she can jump onto my back to get down.

I’ve taught her a few things too. She comes when called, will go to where I point, sits, stands on her hind legs to get treats, will spin right and left when I tell her to, and just lately she’s learned to catch treats in her mouth when I toss them in the air. I’m now considering what I should teach her next so she doesn’t get bored. If you have suggestions, let me know.

I mention all this because I’ve been thinking about what cows, goats and sheep taught me to do in the past. Sometimes it was complicated, like the goat that showed me the waterer was frozen shut by running back and forth between it and me. Other times I didn’t realize they were manipulating me, like when they would stand at the fence mooing until I couldn’t stand it anymore and I gave in and moved them to a new pasture.

Lately, as my cat takes me for walks, I’ve been wondering about you and what your livestock are teaching you, and what you’ve been teaching them as part of your grazing management. Maybe you’ve learned things that would be helpful for the rest of the On Pasture community. So, in the spirit of learning and growing together in 2018, do share your animal behavior tips with us all. It could be fun AND educational!

Thanks for reading!

Kathy and Rachel

2 thoughts on “Things My Cat Has Trained Me To Do (and what your livestock teach you to do)

  1. G’day, I am a “fan” of generation to generation transfer of the flock’s knowledge to the newest members and so I only take replacement ewe lambs out of it while the rams are in in their first year.They are taught where the best grass is in a given paddock ,where the water is and where to find shelter in hot or bad weather.

    Like in human baby’s much is taught in the first year of life and so you avoid the “starting from scratch”by the youngest members of the the future flock.Maidens are also left with their mothers in the next lambing period so the “sudden” arrival of the new little bundles is not a surprise when they under go it themselves.

  2. I have learned that livestock should NEVER come running excitedly to you, or a vehicle, or to your call especially when making a paddock change. If they do, they can be easily trained to calmly move to the gate when you are ready to move them. It took me about 30 minutes to train my animals. You can learn more at Go to the archives and read the post titled “Cattle rush the gate” posted December 13, 2005. There are so many benefits to learning how to properly drive livestock. It just takes commitment to learn some of the things that Bud Williams learned over his lifetime.

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