Many people believe that cats can not be trained because cats do not seem to answer many of the methods used to train dogs. But cats respond to training! In fact, one of the first scientific studies that highlighted the importance of reinforcement in animal behavior was conducted with cats.
The first step in training your cat is to understand it. Cats are not social like dogs. Dogs were bred specifically to work alongside people, while the main reason cats were domesticated was to kill parasites on their own. So they are independent and are not naturally inclined to work for praise and attention like dogs are. They are also not as easy to motivate. You have to use some very special treats that your cat finds irresistible. Training a cat requires creativity and patience.
Your cat’s training has important advantages. You’re stimulating Its is body and mind, which helps keep It healthy. And spending time together means strengthening the bond you share.
Use snacks and treats
The first step is to find a surprise that your cat is going crazy about. Fresh diced chicken, tuna chunks, meat-flavored baby food, and commercial cat treats are all good choices. Once you have identified what your cat likes, follow the basic steps of positive reinforcement training (reward-based training) to teach It the behavior you want. Let’s say you want your cat to sit and rest on a stool while you prepare Its dinner. First, you will need to start by teaching It to sit when you ask It to:
- First, make sure you have your cat’s attention. Hold snacks between your fingers and run it right under Its nose. When your cat starts sniffing, slowly move it just above its nose, but don’t lift it straight up, or you’ll teach your cat to stand on its hind legs instead of sitting. Many cats will follow this arcing motion with their eyes and nose, as their chin moves up and down, their butt will drop.
- Secondly, the instant your cat’s bottom hits the floor, praise It and offer It the snack. If Its back doesn’t come down on the first try, give It the snack anyway. During several repetitions of practice, snack on It each time Its back comes up slightly until It gets into a full sitting with Its back completely on the floor.
Cats do not see well at things that are still and close together, so if your cat is having trouble getting the snack off their fingers, try offering it to them in your flat palm or throwing it on the floor. It will see the movement when you throw it and It will know where the snack is
Use a clicker
A clicker can make training easier and faster. If you don’t have a clicker, you can use a pen that makes a clicking sound. The instant your cat has the correct behavior, you click and then offer It a treat.
The click lets your cat know the instant It’s doing the right thing, so it helps It stay more alert. Make sure you click at the exact moment It does the behavior you want and then give It a surprise. Cats learn through repetition, just like we do, so you will need to practice many times. Keep your training sessions short, just a few minutes at a time. Most cats get bored if they try to puncture the same thing multiple times.
When training your cat, keep in mind that cats respond very badly to punishment! Instead of learning what behavior not to do, a punished cat usually learns to run away. Depending on your cat’s temperament, punishment can scare your cat to the point of hiding from you and your family members.
Punishment creates stress, and stress is one of the most common causes of problematic behavior in cats, including shedding outside the litter box and compulsive grooming. Stress also compromises the immune system, making your cat more vulnerable to diseases, including feline idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).
It is much easier to train your cat when you press the behaviors you want and offer It more attractive alternatives for the behaviors you don’t want. Persuasion, not punishment, is the key to training your cat. If you practice patiently and reward your cat with treats, you will soon have a cat that is sitting purring contentedly.