Sit. Down. Come. Shake. The picture in your head is of an obedient dog, right? But think again. These are just a few of the things that you can just as easily teach your cat to do. Cats are intelligent, quick learners who are often overlooked when it comes to training. Training a cat may not be the same as training a dog, but you reap the same benefits from a trained cat that you would from an equally obedient canine. And then some.
What do you need to train a cat? I recommend a clicker, some patience, and yummy treats like tuna, chicken, etc. If you aren’t familiar with a clicker, it is a small device that makes a distinctive clicking sound. You’ll find them for sale at any pet supply store. Some stores even have a variety, with some making louder, and others making softer, “clicks.” Try the former for cats with a touch of ADD and the latter for skittish cats.
The idea is to pair this clicking sound with the food so your cat learns that a click equals a yummy treat. Then you will use the click to pinpoint the exact behaviors that you want your cat to do. For example, if you want your cat to sit, you would click the moment his bottom hits the ground and follow the click up quickly with a treat.
There are a few aspects of cat training that differ from working with dogs, and it is important to think about these. When working with a cat, keep the training sessions short and sweet. While some dogs can work for fifteen minutes to an hour, cats do best with shorter, more frequent sessions. Think two- to five-minute sessions several times a day. Also, cats’ appetites are not unlimited (as many dogs’ appear to be). If your cat has food out all day, this may make the training food less valuable. I recommend feeding cats on schedule before beginning to train them. On training day, cut their meals in half, so that when you begin training, they are more motivated (i.e., hungry) to work for the food.
Check back next week for some great tricks to teach your cat!
CPDT-KA and Animal Behavior Consultant