LIMA: Not Just A City In Peru

updated on 07 January 2023

Today's post is designed to familiarize you with the approach Class Act Cats takes to behavior modification. There are many different components to behavior modification and animal training including a variety of theoretical and ethical approaches. One such orientation is LIMA, something I believe very strongly in.

You may be saying to yourself, "Well, Joey, what the heck is LIMA?" No, we're not talking about capitol of Peru or the city in Ohio. We're not even talking about the bean!

LIMA stands for "least intrusive, minimally aversive." It's a way of approaching training or behavior modification that ultimately benefits both you and you cat. While there are  a lot of things to consider when taking a LIMA approach, I want to break it down to its basics for you.

The first component is "least intrusive." This means that any training or interventions should be designed to cause as little disruption to your life and your cat's life as possible. Obviously with any behavior problem something needs to change so a little invasiveness is unavoidable. That doesn't mean that we need to go so far as to redo your entire home, have you purchase a bunch of expensive equipment, or have to quit your job to implement the plan! Any sort of behavior modification should be designed to fit around your budget and lifestyle as much as it can. Some behavior problems may require more intense intervention, but even then they should be kept to the minimum necessary to restore balance to your relationship with your cat.

Similarly, your cat matters in LIMA, too! Any learning or behavior modification should not go too much against your cat's natural tendencies. That's where having a team of helpers including a veterinarian and a behavior consultant is helpful: We know about cat behavior! In many cases we can harness a cat's natural behaviors and get a satisfactory resolution for both human and cat.

Your cat should also always be in control of the learning. I know, I know: There's a joke about cats running the world in here somewhere. It's true, though! Cats will often tell you what they need if you pay attention to their body language and behavior. If a cat is becoming too stressed from a training session, backing off for a while is a good idea. If something isn't working for your cat, listen and try something different! They're the one who runs the show after all.

The second component is "minimally aversive." For the sake of this blog, I don't want to go too much into learning theory so I'm going to simplify this quite a bit. Behavior modification techniques can generally be divided into things that increase a behavior and that decrease a behavior. The second group often includes things are that less pleasant for the cat. These can include commonly employed techniques like hitting, yelling, using a spray bottle (spoiler: I have a whole blog post planned on just that topic!), or other attempts to punish your cat.

While this may seem like an effective way at changing behavior, there are a few problems. First, cats may not fully understand why they are being punished. If the timing is not right, the cat may not make the connection between the problem behavior and the punishment. Your cat may then associate you with the punishment and become fearful of you. That's the last thing you want!

There may be some situations where punishment or aversive interventions can be a part of behavior modification plan. It's something that usually shouldn't be done until after other interventions have been tried and it's best to do so with the guidance of a behavior consultant or trainer. It needs to be done extremely carefully!

Obviously there is more to behavior modification and the LIMA approach than what is captured above. If you're interested in learning more, you can click here to read more from the IAABC!

When you book an appointment with Class Act Cats, you can be assured that you and your cat will get a behavior modification plan that adheres to LIMA principles. There will be some work involved, but we'll figure out how to do solve your cat's behavior problems in a way that works for both of you!

About the author: Joey Lusvardi CCBC is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and cat trainer based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He runs a behavior consultation service, Class Act Cats, where he helps cat parents address a variety of unwanted behaviors. He is available for consultation in the Twin Cities or virtually wherever you are located.

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