People don’t traditionally train cats because they’re independent, full of free will, and unpredictable. What some don’t realize is that cats can be trained just like you do with dogs! But this begs the question: How?
Can you actually train a cat like a dog? The short answer is yes, you can. The long answer? Kind of. While you can train a cat like a dog, training techniques aren’t identical. They’re completely different species, after all, and both have distinct needs and behavioral patterns.
In this article, we’ll discuss the 9 essential tips you have to know when training a cat, plus a nifty little training guide to get you started. Let’s delve right in!
How To Train Your Cat – 9 Essential Tips You Have to Know
Although cats may take a little longer to train due to their willful nature, they’re as susceptible to command as dogs. They just need a bit of encouragement, reward, and patience. Here are our 9 top tips to keep in mind when training your cat.
Remember the old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race”? This rule applies when training all animals. This is especially true when it comes to cats, who have a bad rap for being stubborn, independent, and “untrainable”.
It’ll generally take about three to four training sessions for cats to really understand what’s going on. It may be frustrating at first, but keep your patience and don’t lose hope. After all, the end reward sweetens the initial labor.
Know Your Limits
Know your cat’s physical limitations and stay within those boundaries when training.
Cats, contrary to popular belief, can be trained to do practically anything. Professional pet trainers have taught cats to dive into the water, complete a complicated maze, and even jump through a hoop set ablaze.
But you have to understand that these tricks take a toll on a cat’s physical and mental health. Plus they’re not only dangerous, it might be deemed offensive to cats as well.
Take Advantage of Your Cat’s Natural Interests
When training a cat, start with tricks that are related to their natural interests and inclinations. Watch how your cat plays and reacts to certain situations. With this, you can refine what they already naturally know.
This will make training your cat a little bit easier, and you’ll have something to stand upon when training your cat for more “advanced” tricks.
Use Tasty Treats as Reward
Verbal positive reinforcement doesn’t work as well to cats as it does to dogs. Cats don’t really “care” much when being trained, so you need to physically show your kitty how much you appreciate her efforts and give her rewards like a scratch behind her ear or a tasty treat.
This way, your cat will be able to make the connection that she’s done something good that earned her the reward.
Use a Clicker
On the topic of rewards, clickers help with positive reinforcement when training your cat. You don’t need to use anything fancy for a clicker, a regular pen with a clicky button will do, or anything that makes a distinct “clicking” sound. If you cannot find one at home, consider buying a clicker with wrist strap for easy portability.
Every time your cat does something right, click your clicker so she knows she’s done the right thing.
Keep Training Sessions Short
You don’t want to overwhelm your cat with a ton of tricks at a time. While you can train puppies for seemingly endless hours a day, cats have a slightly shorter attention span and may get either tired or too bored to play with you.
Cap your training sessions at 10-15 minutes maximum, for up to only twice a day. This will ensure you’re not wearing out your cat, and, of course, yourself.
Don’t Punish Bad Behavior
Unlike dogs, cats respond very poorly to punishment.
At best, your cat will stop responding to your training, and at worst, it may lead to unwanted behavioral and health problems. That’s definitely something you don’t want to deal with when training your cat.
When “bad” behavior occurs, it’s better to use clickers or to take short breaks when your cat starts acting up or gets a little antsy or difficult. You can try again later, or the next day.
Involve Others in Your Cat’s Training
Cats have an impressive ability to develop long-lasting friendships with a number of different species. Despite that, they’re more independent than others. It’s just simply part of their nature.
When training your cat, we recommend you to ask other family members and the occasional frequent visitor to partake in your cat’s training. This will allow your cat to get used to being around humans and perform as she is trained even when her master isn’t around.
Start Early if Possible
This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to train cats when they’re no longer kittens. Quite the opposite! Older cats may just be a little harder to train, that’s all. Nothing determination won’t fix!
What Can You Train A Cat To Do
If you’re not really sure where to start with your cat’s training, here are a few popular “dog” tricks you can try with your cat. Focus on one action at a time and let your cat master it before moving on to another.
Come on Command
Coming when your cat’s name is called is useful for bringing your cat in when she’s outside, or when she unexpectedly slips out an open door or window. Here are some few tips to train your cat to come on command:
- Attract your cat with a bag of their favorite treats as you’re calling her name.
- Once your cat’s learned to associate her name to something positive (tasty food), you can start replacing treats with praises of encouragement, pets, and head sketches.
- Encourage this behavior outside normal feeding times.
Training cats to “shake” is closely similar to how you’d train dogs.
- Start by touching your cat’s paw and saying “shake” when giving her small.
- Repeat this until she associates the word “shake” with paw touching.
- Petting and positive reinforcements go a long way, so make sure to give your cat some love whenever you utter the word “shake”.
- Repeat for 10 minutes at a time.
This may be a little tricky, but don’t be discouraged! A bit of practice goes a long way.
- Let your cat know that you’re hiding a tasty treat in your fist. Keep your hand close to the ground.
- When your cat touches your hand with her paw, open your fist, say, “good!” and reward her with a treat.
- Repeat step one but slowly increase the height of your hand, until your cat’s lifting her paw whenever she’s touching your hand.
- Next, you’ll want to do the above step but without a treat this time. Hold your palm up and give her treats whenever she’s touching your palm. Say “high-five” whenever you do so.
- Repeat steps until your cat is consistently giving you high-fives whenever you present your palm.
Commands To Teach Your Cat
Once you’ve mastered the basics of cat training, check out these other “pawesome” tricks to teach your cat!
Remember, patience and persuasion are key when training your cat, not punishment.
If your cat isn’t in the mood to train, don’t be discouraged! It’s okay. Just try again another time.