You might be asking yourself what can you train a cat to do? I’m sure many people have the same question because you normally associate training with dogs. The popular understanding is that cats are untrainable.
Well, the truth is cats can learn tricks and respond to commands. In fact, training is a great way to strengthen the bond with your cat and teach positive behaviors. However, in any training it is important to focus on behaviors that are natural to cats.
So, what can you train a cat to do?
You can train a cat to do several things including getting them to come when called, to fetch, to stop inappropriate behaviors and walk with a leash to name just a few. Training a cat is not really very hard and it can also be fun.
Your cat may also enjoy the training session if you are patient and make the experience rewarding with plenty of his favorite treats.
Benefits of cat training
- Training helps to stimulate cats physically and mentally
- It also gives them dedicated time for social interaction with you
- Prevents boredom, bad behavior and improves mental and emotional health
Do not punish: Never punish your feline friends for not responding to training. Negative reinforcement will increase stress levels in your cat, leading to other problem behaviours or health issues.
Do not hit, shake, or push your cat and remember to speak in a calm and neutral tone. Raising your voice or handing out physical punishment during the training process will teach your cat to be afraid of you.
Use positive reinforcement training: Every time your cat responds positively to your training or commands, you need to reinforce that behavior with a reward that the cat considers valuable, such as a moist treat.
Cat training methods
Below are methods that you can use for training your cat:
You can use a training clicker to help your cat connect the clicking sound with a reward. When your cat shows a positive behavior, you click to acknowledge the behavior and follow it up immediately with a reward. Without the clicking sound, your cat may not understand why he is getting the treat. Obedience to a command, followed by a click and the treat will help the cat to understand the connection.
2. Signaling with your hand
You can associate hand gestures with positive behaviors or new skills. For example, you can teach your cat to sit when you make a fist or give you a high five when you show the palm of your hands.
3. Verbal commands
You can associate certain words with the positive behavior or new skill that you want to see in your cat. For example, you can say “sit” to get your cat to sit down or you can have them come to you by calling out their name. Just make sure to create positive association by using a valuable reward such as moist treats when your cat cooperates.
Here are few skills that you can train your cat to do:
Sit when asked
- To start the training, you should sit down on the floor
- Have a clicker and treat ready (keep the clicker out of view)
- Invite your cat to approach you
- When the cat’s near, hold the treat above his head
- Move the treat to the back of his head
- The cat will sit down as his eyes track the treat
- At this point, click and give the treat
- Once your cat learns this skill, give the reward only when your cat sits properly and start using the word ‘sit’
Come when called
- Drop some treats into a bowl and invite your cat over by saying ‘come’ while shaking the bowl
- Click and reward when your cat comes over
- Your pet will learn to connect the word ‘come’ with a positive experience: a tasty treat
- Continue the training at short distances and increase the distance gradually
- Make sure to use the clicker and reward each time your cat responds
Walk on a leash
- Always use a cat harness to avoid injuries due to pulling
- Provide treats and pet your cat so that he associates the harness with a positive experience
- Allow your cat to walk around in the harness around the house
- When he seems comfortable, you can attach the leash and guide him around the house
- In case your cat gets upset and struggles, stop the training temporarily so that he does not end up hating it.
- Once your cat has mastered walking around the house on a leash, you should move to the backyard
- After a few successful walks around the backyard, you can now attempt a short walk outside
- While outside your cat may appear nervous; petting and giving treats will help to calm your cat down and have a positive feeling about the experience.
- Make sure to avoid areas where you are likely to encounter dogs, other cats or kids
- Aim for short walks; cats due to their short stature cannot walk long distances or fast
- Get a treat out
- Lower yourself to your cat’s level
- Touch your cat’s paw and say ‘shake’ at the same time
- Click when your cat move his paw and give him the treat
- Repeat the steps until your cat responds to the word ‘shake’ without you touching his paw
- Take a moist treat and rub it on your cat’s toy
- Throw the toy
- When your cat picks up the toy, click and give the treat
- After a few sessions, you can add the word ‘fetch’ when you throw the toy
- Remember to click and give the treat when your cat brings the toy to you
- Call your cat over while holding a treat in your hand
- When your cat touches your hand, click and give the treat
- Once your cat is touching your hand consistently, open your palm
- Click and give a treat when your cat touches your palm
- Next, start using the word ‘high five’ when your cat touches your palm
- Continue the steps until your cat associates the word with the desired behavior
- Remember to also use verbal praise while providing treats
Use scratching post instead of furniture
You can train your cat to use the scratching pads instead of destroying your favorite couch or expensive furniture. Follow the below steps consistently to get your cat to choose the scratching pads over your furniture:
- Position the scratching post close to the furniture that your cat is scratching
- Invite your cat over and encourage her to scratch the post
- You can hold her paw and gently rub the scratching post to transfer your cat’s scent
- Sprinkling catnip on the scratching post can also help
- Repeat this everyday until your cat gets accustomed to using the scratching post
- Encourage the cat by giving a treat and verbal praise every time she scratches the post
- You can also cover your furniture with aluminum foil during the training period to make it unattractive to your cat
How long should you train your cat?
- You should aim for two sessions a day of 5 minutes duration
- The desired behavior should be repeated for not less than 20 times in each session
Learning does not happen immediately, and your cat is bound to make mistakes. The important thing is to be patient and continue with the training. Training your cat can be an enjoyable experience for your whole family.
Before you go check out our article on cat litter box problems.