Despite what many people believe, cats are trainable. Think about it this way…if a Bengal Tiger can be trained for a live magic act, why wouldn’t your kitty be able to learn a few cat tricks? Let’s learn a few essential tips so you can be successful at training your cat.
Cats can be taught novelty tricks (like giving a paw) as well as useful tasks (such as putting a toy in a basket). It’s even possible to train a cat to compete in agility tournaments! Before you get that ambitious with your favorite feline, you’ll want to start with the basics.
Do I Train a Cat the Same Way I Would Train a Dog?
Cats require different training approaches from dogs. If you’ve successfully trained your dog to do all kinds of tricks and tasks, you’ll need to re-think you’re approach when training your cat. Here’s why:
Unlike dogs, most cats are not motivated by food or other rewards. For centuries, dogs have been trained to work with, alongside, and for people in exchange for food or shelter or some other reward. This conditioned response is built into domestic dogs. Cats…not so much. It can be learned, but it takes practice. And if your cat happens to be food motivated--well, you are already ahead of the game!
Cats are, by their nature, loners and less interested in working with their human. Where dogs are instinctively driven to be part of and hold a place in the pack (their human family), cats are much less driven to collaborate with their humans. You have to build rapport with your cat in ways that are different and potentially more difficult than what you can accomplish with a dog.
What Type of Training Techniques do Cats Respond To?
When training a kitten or a cat you need to keep a few things in mind:
You need to be able to hold their attention. Identify what captivates your cat and integrate those elements into your training program.
You need to use positive reinforcement. Just as with dogs, cats are not gong to respond to yelling, threats, punishment or any other type of fear tactic. Food, toys, cuddles, and any other positive experience that your cat enjoys should be used to reinforce the desired behavior.
You need to work in planned steps. Be sure you break things down for your cat. The video below from one of our blog readers shows how an ordinary housecat is being trained.
You need to be patient. You the human, need to be patient with the cat. Work in short sessions and add time as your cat’s skills improve.
Some cats will respond to “clicker training” -- a method that is commonly used to train dogs. Check out this resource to learn more about clicker training a cat.
How to Teach a Cat to Give a Paw
We asked our readers and clients to tell us about their experience teaching a cat to do a trick or task. Lynn S. shared her approach to teaching her cat, Rascal, how to give a paw.
Rascal is a 9-year old Tuxedo cat. Yes! Even "old cats" can learn tricks! Way to go, Rascal!
Lynn and Rascal started working on this trick in late October 2021. She explained that they are using Rascals mealtime as incentive to learn:
Prior to placing out Rascal's wet food or offering a treat, Rascal is asked to sit.
Next, I give the command - give paw.
At first, I gave the command and lifted his paw, then gave the treat.
Eventually, I moved to tapping the paw and waiting for him to present it.
Now that they’ve been working on this for a few months, Rascal usually lifts his paw immediately. At times when he doesn't, Lynn will tap the back of Rascals leg, near the paw.
Check out this great podcast on myth-busting cat behavior and cat psychology.
Are You Looking for a Cat Sitting Service in Wilmington, DE?
Our professional, caring cat sitters work with cats and the owners in Wilmington, DE and surrounding areas. A dedicated Kitten Sittin’ team member will be assigned to your cat’s care on a schedule that you arrange with us. Not only do our exceptional cat sitters provide love and attention while you are away from home, we’ll help them practice their tricks, too!.
Call us today at (302) 304-8399 to learn more about our exceptional cat sitting services for Wilmington and surrounding areas.