Can You Teach a Cat To Do Tricks? Yes, you can!
14 July, 2015
As much as our feline favorites have a mind of their own, cats can be trained to perform certain tricks and/or behaviors. There are some differences between the way cats and dogs are trained as cats aren’t as likely to be as motivated by praise as dogs. Cats are also less instinctively driven to work in partnership with their human ‘slaves’ but only when they feel like it or are ready. However, with the right methods, patience and repetition, your cat can be taught tricks.
Training your cat also has important health and mental benefits. You’re stimulating your kitty’s his body and his mind, which helps keep him healthy. And spending time together means you’re strengthening the bond you share. In addition to teaching fun tricks like wave and fetch, you can also teach him a range of useful behaviors like sit, stay and to come when called. Always start with simple tricks before moving onto the next.
Always train cats (and dogs) with 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.
Your cat’s favorite treats will be the prime motivator in training your cat
The first step to train your cat is to find a treat that your cat goes crazy for. Fresh chicken diced in tiny cubes, bits of tuna, meat-flavored baby food, and commercial cat treats are all good choices. Once you’ve identified treats your cat likes, follow the basic steps of positive reward-based training to teach him the behavior you want.
For instance, if you’d like your cat to sit and stay on a chair while you prepare your dinner. You’ll first need to start with teaching him to sit when you ask him to:
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.
Next, 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. If your cat has difficulty taking the treat from your fingers, try offering your kitty from your hand or tossing it on the floor. Your kitty see the movement when you toss it and know where the treat is.
Practice makes perfect (or almost) in training our cats.
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 just learned.
Train your cat with a loving, happy voice
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. Make sure to always praise them with treats, love and food (but not too much) after they have completed the task. Food is the main motivator but love and kindness can help ‘seal’ the deal.
Make sure your cat has mastered one trick before moving on to the next
Once your cat has fully mastered his first trick, move on to others. Using treats, your sweet voice 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 open a door.
Don’t try training your kitty when he or she is sleepy
The best time to teach your kitty a new trick is after breakfast or at night. Always train your kitty when they are at their most alert so that you can hold on to their attention. If they are in sleepy mode and not responding (which is most of the time), try again another time when your cat is more alert.
With time and practice, you can train your cat to learn new tricks. However, don’t get discouraged if your cat doesn’t respond at first. It takes time, praise, treats and encouragement and a lot of repetition!