Cats are Smart and Can Be Trained!
6 January, 2015
While cats aren’t as sociable as dogs and are somewhat independent, they are much smarter than we sometimes think. In fact, cats can bet trained. Training takes just takes a little patience and practice. Training your cat is not only fun for you, but has important health benefits as well. You’re stimulating your cats’ body and mind while keeping your kitty healthy. And spending time together means you’re strengthening the bond you share which also prolongs your cat’s life and happiness.
Cats do not respond to punishment but to positive reinforcement
While training your cat, keep in mind that cats respond very poorly to punishment! Rather than learning what behavior not to do, a punished cat usually just learns to run away. Depending on your cat’s temperament, punishment can frighten your cat to the point where he may hide from you and your family members. 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.
It’s much easier to train your cat when you reward behaviors you want and offer your kitty more attractive alternatives for behaviors you don’t want. Persuasion, not punishment, is the key to training your cat. If you patiently practice and reward your cat with treats, you’ll soon have a cat who’s sitting on cue, giving you his or her paw and purring contentedly.
Cats can be trained using their favorite treats
The first step is to find a treat that your cat loves and would do anything to eat! Fresh chicken diced in tiny cubes, bits of tuna, meat-flavored baby food, and commercial cat treats are all good choices. Once you’ve found the treats that your cat loves, follow the basic steps of positive reinforcement training to teach your cat the behavior you want. Suppose you’d like your cat to sit and stay on a chair while you prepare his dinner. You’ll first need to start with teaching your kitty to sit when you ask:
First, make sure you have your cat’s attention. Hold the tasty treat in your fingers right at your cat’s nose. When your cat begins to sniff the treat, slowly move it in an arc from his nose up just over his head between his ears. Many cats will follow this arc motion with their eyes and nose, and as their chin raises up and back, their butt will go down.
Then the instant your cat’s bottom hits the floor, praise him and offer him the treat. If his rear doesn’t go all the way down on the first try, give him the treat anyway. Over several repetitions of practice, give him a treat each time his rear gets slightly closer, until he’s gets into a complete sit with his rear all the way on the floor.
Cats don’t see things well that are still and close-up, so if your cat has difficulty taking the treat from your fingers, try offering it to him in your flat palm or tossing it on the floor. He’ll see the movement when you toss it and know where the treat is located.
Then you can move onto placing your cat in a chair and following the steps above until he or she understands, gets a treat and then his or her dinner!
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 your 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.
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. Cats are smart enough to be trained. They just need the encouragement and practice.