Training your cat? Aren’t cats supposed to be independent and untrainable? If you’ve ever seen the Acrocats or happened to catch the Savitsky Cats on America’s Got Talent, then you’ll know differently.
Cats are actually very intelligent and trainable, they just don’t respond to the same techniques as dogs. But you can train your cat to do tricks just like your dog can learn. Cats can learn to give you a high five, fist bump with you, sit, stay, jump, roll over, and dance. They can place, target, heel, and run an agility course. My Matisse will even play fetch with his favorite spring toy.
Cats can be taught to walk on a leash and safely adventure outdoors. If you take your kitty out on adventures, please teach her to come when called by name. A good recall is a safety measure should she ever wiggle out of her harness.
Benefits of Training Your Cat
Positive training, whether learning to fist bump or to use a scratching post instead of the sofa, will make life better for your cat and increase the bond between you.
A kitty who is sharing enriching activities with her guardians will be much less likely to indulge in destructive or aggressive behaviors like scratching up your furniture, biting, or overgrooming. Training your cat to do tricks will keep her from getting bored. Teaching Kitty new skills improves her physical and mental health by keeping her mind and body active.
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Working on learning new tricks together will bring you closer. I have noticed that as I work with my cats on adventure skills, or trick training, or show hall performance our relationship becomes stronger. That trust gives the cats greater confidence to try other new things when I ask it of them.
Learning can be fun for your kitty and for you. Trick training is a great enrichment activity for a cat who doesn’t have the temperament to enjoy life as an adventure cat.
Cats aren’t as easy to motivate as dogs, but they do want to please you. Training a cat requires some creativity and patience and really good treats.
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Clicker training is the most popular method of training cats. It is simple conditioning. Clicker training involves pairing the click of a clicker tool or a word cue with the desired action from the cat and a positive reward for success.
Every click results in something positive for the cat: a special treat, affection, play with a favorite toy. Cats are quick to figure out what actions get them the desired reward. Make sure you click at the exact moment that Kitty does what you expect, praise him and give him a treat.
Cats learn through repetition, just as dogs do. But cats don’t have the attention span of dogs. Keep your clicker training sessions short. Several short training sessions a day is more effective than one long one. And vary what you work on. Cats get bored if you go over and over the same thing. They like a challenge.
The ASPCA suggests at least 2 five minute training sessions a day during which you repeat the desired behavior sequence at least 20 times.
Want to see a clicker training session? Check out this YouTube video.
Targeting is a training technique that has Kitty touch her nose or a paw to an object or “target” as she learns the behaviors you teach. You can buy commercial targeting tools but you can use a something like a pencil or a chopstick.
Targeting teaches Kitty to move to a certain place or touch a certain object. You can accomplish similar goals with your hand to teach something like high five, rollover, or sit. Use a lure toy to lead Kitty through an agility course.
Start by offering Kitty the target. Her natural curiosity should lead her to sniff the object. Reward her when she touches it. Provide an extra incentive by adding a soft treat like baby food to the end of the stick . She should get the idea fairly quickly. Once she masters the trick with the target up close then you can use the target to direct her from further away.
Follow Cat School on YouTube to learn the basics of Target Training and teaching your cats tricks.
Give Your Cat the World with Training
Lure-based training and clicker training can be used separately or in combination depending on what you want to teach your kitty. Whatever method you choose, positive, reward-based training will enrich Kitty’s life and improve your communication and bonding.
Give your cat her best life possible by checking out these training resources:
Cat School Training Program
Training Your Cat: Clicker vs. Lure Training
Train Your Cat in Ten Minutes a Day
Clicker Training for Cats
The Trainable Cat