It occurred to me the other night that I am in the throws of a superstitious behavior brought on by a very huge reinforcer! Let me explain, my kitten Sherman has had a pretty rough start to his life; he was found all alone as a stray at only 5 weeks old. He was bottle fed at his foster home and within 2 weeks adopted by us (just by chance). He came down with a nasty upper respiratory virus and was so tiny and skinny! Thankfully (and after many vet visits) he healed and started to grow and thrive. Then we discovered he was a bilateral cryptorchid; that was fun (not to mention EXPENSIVE). In the mean time he was battling some diarrhea issues. We thought it was from being on and off so many antibiotics within such a short time frame. We cut back on his wet food, switched it to Science Diet ID, and started adding a probiotic to his wet food daily. Then it happened...he pooped on the tile by the garage door, easy to clean you say? Not so much; it was in the corner, so naturally it was in all the crevices of the baseboards (stop reading now if your stomach turns easily!). I chalked it up to the anesthesia since he had just had his neuter surgery the day before. But then it happened again down in the basement on the carpet this time and then again in the same general area and the last time was actually in my shower! So he got on meds, I cleaned up the spots with an OCD fervor, placed a feline pheromone diffuser downstairs and started following him around the house! I quickly discovered he had potty signals just like a puppy! He would sniff around, usually in the general vicinity of the previous accidents, even crying at the doors of my closed shower! I would scoop him up and bring him to the litter boxes and he would use them perfectly! I started to realize he needed to go potty almost directly after eating his morning wet food, so after he finished I would coax him downstairs with me and he would accompany me while I scooped the boxes and then he'd use them! For the first day or two I scooped the boxes 4 times a day! Now a side note; I am notoriously a horrible cat box scooper! I forget for days on end, just ask my old timers! I was lucky enough to never have an issue and got off scot free being so lazy! But here I was being a diligent, almost obsessed, scooper. BUT (and here is where the superstitious behavior comes in) he hasn't had one accident since I've started doing this! Could it be the medication? Possibly, although he does still have the diarrhea. Could it be the diffuser? Certainly, but it could also be my twice daily box scooping! And because there is that possibility I am not going to tempt fate (or my kittens intestinal tract) by stopping! I have been trained into a superstitious behavior because the most reinforcing thing for me is to not have cat poop on my carpet!
Man I have smart pets (and I must say I am pretty highly trainable)!