Cats are intelligent animals that can be trained! If you find the right way to work with them, you can teach them wonders. Training your cat will help them be more social, less anxious and overall more content. Here is your "How to train a cat" guide with a few tips to get you started on the journey.
Things to remember
1. What do you want to teach your cat?
First and foremost, ask yourself what exactly you want your kitty to learn? Do you wish to correct inappropriate behavior (i.e. furniture scratching) or teach your cat some cool tricks (i.e. high five)? The applied technique will be determined by the type of behavioral action you will be teaching. Once you have decided what to work on, you can start slowly moving forward together with your furry friend. Some of the common objectives in cat training are:
- Using the litter box
- No scratching or jumping on furniture
- No biting
- Following commands such as come, sit, stay, high five, roll over, jump etc.
- Training a cat not to do something
- Teaching a cat new tricks
2. Keep the cat training sessions short.
The time and duration of a lesson has to be adapted to your cat’s mood and interest. Cats have a shorter attention span than us and they like to do things how and when they want to do it. This means that you will have to train with your pet when they’re interested in it and for as long as this interest lasts. The most effective training sessions are usually short, but frequent and natural. It is important to remain calm, patient and, before all, persistent. Don’t give up if your cat doesn’t progress as quickly as you had hoped. They are independent and strong-willed, which requires a lot of patience on your end.
3. Focus on one behavior action at once.
While it is possible for cats to learn a few things simultaneously, it is thought to be most effective to teach them one thing at the time. To be utmost successful, allow your cat to master the respective objective before moving on to a new one.
4. Effective Cat Training Rewards good behavior.
Cats respond very well to the system of positive reinforcement. Our favorite pets love doing things they get something good out of. Therefore, whenever your feline does something well, reward her with an encouraging praise, scratch or a treat. You can also use the "clicker" every time you reward them. This way they will make a connection between the objective, the reward and the clicker sound. Every time they hear the clicker, they will know they did the job well.
5. Do not punish the bad behavior.
Cats typically do not respond well to punishment. This type of disciplinary methods is not found to be helpful and it often triggers stress and anxiety. Instead, whenever you spot an inappropriate behavior, try to distract your cat. For example, if you’re teaching them not to scratch the furniture – every time you see them do it – make a quick, sharp sound (i.e. "whoa!"). The cat will be distracted and stop the action. Be consistent with the sound choice and avoid using common words like "hey" or "no". This is to avoid the confusion when they hear these sounds in different contexts.
6. Involve others.
It is recommended for other family members and frequent visitors to be involved in your training too. Everyone should know what the ultimate goal is and which method you’re employing. For example, every person who spots the cat scratching the sofa needs to react and apply the same corrective measurement like you.
7. Start early.
If you’re bringing home a kitten, you may want to start teaching them certain behaviors early on. For example, socializing the kittens and getting them used to being handled and groomed is all easier done early in the kitten-hood. Raising kittens in this way will make it easier for us to take care of them when they grow up.
Correcting inappropriate behavior
Before getting into the fancy tricks, many of us would prefer to start with the basics. We would like our cats to use their litter boxes and stop it with the mischief such as biting, furniture scratching or counter climbing.
1. Training the cat to use the litter box.
The first step on this journey is to find the right spot for the litter box. It should be easily accessible and placed in a quiet and private area that isn’t too far out of the way. Most importantly, always keep the litter box clean and fresh.
Once the litter box has been placed, you can start training your cat. A neat trick is to place the cat in the litter box shortly after they've eaten and gently scratch the sand with their front paw until they urinate. Repeat this several times. Your cat should shortly realize what the purpose of the litter box is.
In the beginning you will want to praise and reward your kitty immediately after they’ve finished up. Do not punish them for out-of-the-litter-box accidents though. They won’t learn from it and you may make them nervous or scared.
2. Training the cat not to bite.
In this task it is important to recognize when and why your cat bites in the first place. Is it a rough player or does it bite you when you disrespect their privacy? If your cat starts biting and scratching you during a play activity, it is important to stop the game as soon as they become too aggressive. Disengage from the activity, stand or sit still and ignore your pet. If you are consistent with this method, they will soon realize you won’t play with them if they’re too rough. If they’re attacking you when you’re handling them to much for their taste, then just try to respect their boundaries.
A cat could also be aggressive if they’re not getting enough exercise. You can fix this by providing them with more outlets for their predatory instincts. Give them plenty of toys they can flick, chase and catch. Some toys such at "fishing" toys will enable you to join in the hunting game with your pet too.
3. Training the cat not to scratch the furniture.
If your cat is scratching the furniture, maybe they just need to scratch. Provide them with a scratching post where they can sharpen their claws. Also, whenever you spot the inappropriate behavior, distract your kitty with a sharp, uncommon sound. It will alert them, but it won’t create panic. Try to use the same sound every time. Do not declawing your cat though. This will NOT solve the problem, and can only make it worse.
Cat Training Tricks to try out
1. Come when called.
Youtube user Howcast provided an excellent video on How to Train a Cat to Come When Called. They advise attracting your cat with a bag of their favorite treats as you're calling their name. Then you should reward them when they come to you. Soon they will make the connection between their name and the tasty reward. Once they've progressed, you can start replacing the treats with praises and encouraging head scratches.
When teaching the cat to sit, you may want to include a hand signal as you give the verbal command. Stand in front of your cat with your treat and clicker, say "sit" in a calm and steady voice and hold your hand vertically in a stop sign. Every time your cat sits down when you do this, reward them with the treat and click the clicker.
3. High five.
Teaching your cat to give you a high five is a lot simpler than it seems. Start encouraging their paw movements but treating them every time their paw moves off the ground. Then, wrap the treat in your fist and wait for them to try and grab it with their paw. When they do this, reward them. Gradually start lifting your hand higher and higher. Every time they touch your hand with their paw, reward them. Don't forget to use the verbal command and say "hive five" or "shake paw" as you train them. Your kitty will soon learn that they should give you a high five whenever you extend your hand and say the magic word!
4. Other pawesome tricks.
The list of amazing tricks your furry friend can learn is endless. You could teach them to ring a bell, lay down, roll over, swim, dance or jump. All you need is a cat, an idea, lots of patience, consistency and love! For some inspiration we dug out a few of Internet's favorite cat sensations:
a) Catmantoo is a dog and cat trainer winning the internet over with his two amazing furry balls – Didga and Boomer. "Who say's cats can't learn... Didga, adopted from the shelter (and Boomer) are going to help me show that cats are smart and teachable as long as you use a specific positive 'methodology' (similar to the way marine animals are taught.)" - explains Robert aka Catmantoo. And his channel truly proves the point. The things Didga and Boomer can do are mind-blowing! They skateboard, swim, do trust falls, jump, kiss and, of course, like all cats, reward their hooman with some fursome mischief.
b) Kaiser the Amazing Bengal. We absolutely loved the YouTube video posted by NanaBorderCollie where Kaiser gives an outstanding performance competing against a Border Collie dog in a trick contest. This cat has mastered some really advanced tricks!
c) Kitty the cat. This cat can do numerous very advanced tricks. YouTuber Jacob Hollingsworth posted this amazing video of Kitty doing 20+ tricks.
d) The Savitsky cats are a Ukrainian group of cats who recently competed at the America's Got Talent competition. They blew the judges away with their fursome tricks in this performance!
It is important to work with our pets. Correcting inappropriate behavior will help us maintain harmony in our homes and protection for our cats from possibly harmful actions. Teaching them to be social, friendly and accepting of handling and grooming will also provide them with a better-quality care. Additionally, if you decide to work on fun tricks with your cat, you are in for a treat! You and your kitty will have a tremendous amount of fun and you will be bonding on a completely different level!