Articles, Pet Behaviour, Training
Cat owners often want to know how to train a cat and believe that it is all but impossible to get a cat to obey simple instructions. It’s true that cats don’t usually respond to the same training methods as dogs, but cats will definitely respond to training.
Cats aren’t social animals like dogs and because they’re independent they aren’t naturally inclined to work to get praise, attention and rewards like dogs do. Cats will generally do things in their own time, so to learn how to train a cat will require motivation, patience and creativity, as well as plenty of free time!
Just like dogs, cats too are motivated to do things that will provide a benefit to them like tasty treats or a game with a favourite toy. In normal situations it is the cat that demands these things (and usually gets them!) so a good a good way to learn how to train a cat, will be the use of these motivators and rewards to your advantage.
What commands can your cat learn?
Cats can be trained to learn many commands such as to come when they’re called, to sit and roll over and to shake paws.
When starting a cat training regime, don’t overload or confuse your cat with different instructions. Teach one command, behaviour or trick at a time.
The benefits of training your cat
The process of training your cat, whether you’re successful or not, will provide valuable exercise and stimulation for your cat’s mind. A trained cat will be a much more intelligent companion for you, will usually be calmer and easier to live with and will probably bring you more pleasure and joy.
Another benefit is that once you have mastered how to train a cat your companion will be easier to control and so will be less likely to place itself in danger. Imagine being able to call your cat back from the roadside or from a tricky situation simply by a command!
Finally, a training regime will naturally mean that you and your cat will spend more time together, so you’ll be strengthening the bond between you.
The 5 rules of how to train a cat
- Rewards are the key to motivating your cat to obey your commands. Your cat’s favourite tasty treats are a great place to start! Over time you may be able to lessen their dependence on treats.
- Start with behaviours that come naturally to your cat so it’s easier for them to comply. Once you’ve mastered these you can move on to more difficult behaviours.
- Cats are very easily distracted, so be sure to eliminate any noise or nearby movement so your cat can give you its full attention.
- Don’t drag out training sessions. Cats get bored quite quickly so keep the sessions short and to the point, and always end on a positive note.
- Once you’ve started training keep the sessions regular, preferably daily. Weekly or monthly sessions won’t provide the reinforcement needed to get results.
The 4 behaviours or tricks you can train your cat to do
“Clicker” behaviour training
A clicker can make learning how to train a cat much easier and quicker. Every time your cat correctly responds to a command, immediately click the clicker, then offer a treat. It’s important to click and then reward at the precise moment your cat does the behaviour you want.
Using food as positive reinforcement
When your cat demands to be fed or just before she is hungry, call her to you, say her name and a command eg “Molly, come”, at the same time as you shake her biscuits or open a can of food. Using reward repetition will soon train your cat to come every time you call.
Teaching your cat to ring a bell
Cats that spend most of their lives outdoors can cause frustration and inconvenience when they demand to come back indoors. A good solution is to suspend a small loud bell at your eye level for your cat. Eventually your cat will make contact with the bell, it will ring, and you can reward it by letting it in. Once this has happened a few times your cat will learn to ring the bell.
How to train your cat to sit
All cats like to sit, so teaching this should be relatively easy. Each time you see your cat sit down, say “sit” then praise her and give her a treat. You can also train your cat to recognise and respond to a hand signal for sitting, such as moving your hand vertically downwards.
Always remember that cats don’t see things well that are close or not moving, so always offer treats in your palm or rolling it on the floor.
Many of the methods for how to train a cat outlined above for teaching or modifying responses, and obeying commands, can be adapted to various behaviours you want your cat to perform. As long as you remember that they are all based on reward and positive reinforcement for good or desired behaviour. Over time you can change the nature of the rewards from treats to a simple pat, depending on your and your cat’s needs and responses.
Further information on how to train a cat
Petfinder – How to teach a cat tricks
Howcast – How to train a cat to come when called
Tags: behaviour, Cat, cats, clicker, obedience, pet, praise, response, reward, train, trainers, training