Can You Train Your Cat?
5 March, 2014
As most cat owners know, our cats can be very independent and like to get their own way. Yet, as we get to know our cats, we find out what their motivations are and/or how they respond to certain situations. Some cats, on their own, are very responsive to their owners’ gestures and voice commands to certain situations. But, can we train our cats and teach them tricks? For most cats, the answer is yes.
Cats only respond to positive reinforcement
Cats should only be taught new behaviors with positive, reward-based training. Punishment and and/or yelling at are cats are not only destructive but not effective. Punishment creates stress, and stress is one of the most common causes for problem behaviors in cats, including eliminating outside of the litter box and compulsive grooming and should never be used under any circumstance.
Use your cat’s favorite treats as a reward
The best reinforcements or rewards you can use for cats are treats as they need something special to motivate them. This means you shouldn’t use kibble, but look for the food and/or treats that your cat really loves. Small pieces of chicken or turkey, low-sodium tuna, meat-flavored baby food and commercial cat treats might be effective, depending on your cat’s individual preferences.
Use treats as a reward to your cat’s correct training response
Try to get your kitty used to receiving rewards in response to specific behaviors. Start with a simple trick like jumping on your lap to show your cat that good things happen during your training sessions. Once your cat jumps on your lap, praise her and give your kitty a treat. Or try another simple trick like having your kitty greet you at the door when you walk inside.
Reinforce the behavior
You need to repeat your training and practice with your kitty. You don’t want to wear your cat out or bore your feline, but you do want your kitty to understand the relationship between a particular reward and behavior as well as the command associated with that behavior. You will, however, want to repeat the routine again the next day and continue it on a regular basis so that your cat doesn’t forget what he’s learned.
Some cats respond to clicker training
It’s important for your cat to be rewarded as soon as she performs the desired action, but it can be difficult for many people to time their rewards precisely with their cat’s behavior. A clicker can help with timing by introducing a sound that tells the cat that what they just did was a good thing. However, if your cat doesn’t respond to the sound of the clicker then try a simple high loving voice as a reward. Cats do recognize a loving voice and a nice rub down as a sign that they did something correct and/or you are happy with them.
You can then move on to other tricks
Once your cat has fully mastered his first trick, move on to others. Using treats, the clicker or whatever motivates your cat the best, you can introduce common tricks like “stay” “give me a kiss” and others. Some cats can even be taught how to walk on a leash or even open a door.
(My cat, Sammy, knows how to open the door).
With time and practice, your cat can be trained to learn new tricks. However, don’t get discouraged if your cat doesn’t respond at first. It takes time, praise, treats and encouragement.