How To Teach A Cat Tricks
5 Easy Tricks To Teach Your Cat
Can you train a house cat to do tricks? The answer is absolutely yes! And, most importantly, teaching your cat to do simple tricks is not that hard! For years people believed cats to be less trainable than dogs. Now we're starting to understand that cats are in fact trainable, they just respond to different stimuli. After doing some research and trying these ideas with our two cats, we put together a list of 5 easy ticks to teach your cat.
The first thing to remember is that training a cat is somewhat different from training a dog. While dogs are pack animals who want to please their "alpha" (i.e. owner), cats tend to be more independent and focused on pleasing themselves rather than their human! Cats also do not respond to punishment - they don't understand it as a consequence of unwanted behavior. In other words, the trick to training your cat is rewarding desired behavior. It is easier to train a kitten rather than an adult cat. However, we managed to train both of our adult cats to do the tricks below in no time. Just make sure you have your cat's favorite treats in stock!
1. Get Up On Hind Legs
This was the first trick we taught our cat, Nemo, and now he does it every night. Here's how this worked. Before serving your cat's dinner, hold the bowl with food in one hand at the level of your knees and say "up". You may need to repeat the command a few times and lower the bowl a little to get your cat interested. Eventually, your cat will get up on his hind legs to check the contents of the bowl and get to his dinner. Once your cat is up on his hind legs, offer praise, pet him and serve his dinner in the usual spot. Repeat the same thing for a few days until your cat gets the drill. Then, instead of lowering the food bowl, extend your hand only and say "up". By now your cat will associate the command and the gesture with getting dinner, so he will get up on his hind legs and try to reach your hand. The gesture and the word "up" will now trigger the same response from your cat. Just don't forget to offer food or snacks when they have performed the trick.
Teach your cat to sit on command using treats and a clicker. You can get a clicker for less than $5 - it makes training a lot easier! Start by sitting on the floor and holding a treat for your cat, right above her head level. Once your cat sees the treat, start moving the treat so your cat follows it with her eyes. She will automatically assume a sitting position as she's following the treat. Then, click and reward. Once your cat has mastered the sit-click-reward sequence, start using the word "sit", then click, then treat. Finally, remove the click and use only the word "sit" and reward.
The easiest way to teach your cat to fetch would be starting off with a new toy. Once you open the toy, throw it and wait for your cat's curiosity to kick in - she will chase the toy and play with it by picking it up with her mouth. Once your cat picks the toy up, click and treat. The cat will drop the toy to eat the treat. Repeat the same throw-click-treat sequence, moving gradually further away from your cat. If she brings the toy to you, click and treat. If she leaves the toy, grab the toy, bring it to your cat and wait until she has it back in her mouth. Then click and treat. This may take some time, so be patient. If your cat does not seem interested in the toy, you can try rubbing it with a little bit of catnip or some of her food. The key is showing your cat that the toy needs to be in her mouth for the click and treat to happen. As you start moving away, your cat will know to bring the toy back to you. Once you have the throw-bring-click-treat response locked in, start using "fetch" before the click. Finally, remove the click and use the word "fetch" only.
4. Give Paw
For this one, choose your cat's most favorite treat. Hold the treat slightly above your cat's nose, moving it slightly and trying to entice her to bat or reach for it with her paw. Then say "tap" and reward with treat. Once this combination is working, save the treat for after the tap and only use the command as a trigger.
5. Jump Through Obstacles
You don't have to be a tiger trainer to get your cat to jump through hoops! If your cat already associates a clicker with treats, you're all set to begin teaching her this trick. If not, start by a click-treat training, so your cat knows she gets a treat after hearing a click. Next, hold a hoop between you and your cat, click and hold the treat on the other side of the hoop. Your cat will jump through the hoop to get the treat. If she takes a shortcut instead, do not reward and repeat. You can slowly introduce a command word like "jump" before clicking. Finally, you can skip the clicking and only use the word "jump" to get your cat to go through the hoop.