You might believe that cats are impossible to train, but really, you can use a similar approach to training a dog. As you can see in the above video, cats can learn a ton of tricks! With some effort and patience, your cat will also have a few tricks down pat.
Every cat is different, some are easier to train and are more motivated by your affection, some aren't motivated by any sort of treat and are tough to teach. You know your cat best, so don't be afraid to re-evaluate if your cat needs more time and patience than you're willing to give.
Keep in Mind
- Be committed: Don't rush into trying to teach your cat the full trick. Break it down into small steps and work your way towards the full trick. This will take time and patience, so be committed in order to be successful.
- Have really good rewards: Wet food, canned tuna or cubed chicken work well for most cats, but yours may prefer extra pets or playtime. Make sure to give them this treat only when training, so it becomes a positive experience for them.
- Go slow: You may spend only five minutes a day on training, to keep your cat's attention from wandering. This means it can take months for your cat to master a trick. Cap your training sessions at 15 minutes to avoid wearing out your cat — and yourself.
You want to set your cat up for success, so be flexible and figure out what works for them. Deva on Adopt And Shop shares how she switched up a training technique to better fit her cat, Garbanzo.
There may even be things you'll need to change in your training method — for example, when we first started training Garbanzo, we would hold his hoop in our hands… and our hands smelled like treats. Instead of walking through the hoop, he started following our hands and biting them. We definitely didn't want him learning that trick! By adding a stand to the hoop and giving him a bit more space, we avoided teaching him a bad habit and helped him focus on the behaviour we wanted to reward.
Unsurprisingly, your cat may learn tricks, but may not be interested in performing them on cue 100 per cent of the time. If your cat isn't in the mood to do a trick, be OK with trying again another time.
Tricks to Try
If you're not sure what you want your cat to learn, here are a few popular tricks to start with. Pick one and focus on teaching your cat to master it before moving on to another.
- Harness and leash: Teach your cat to be OK with having a harness on, so you can eventually work up to taking them on walks.
- Shake: Your cat offers its paw to "shake" hands with you.
- Name recognition: Coming when their name is called, which is useful if they slip out an open door or window.
- Jumping through a hoop: You can also replace the hoop with your circled arms.
If you want to use clicker training with your cat, here's a quick tutorial on how to get started. If you decide not to use a clicker, you can sub in another verbal cue, such as "good" or "yes".