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How to Train Your Cat

Posted by Colin Robertson on


Everyone is aware of how dogs can and are trained. Dogs are not just trained for obedience but the trained dogs serve a whole host of social and economical purposes; from working on farms (sheep dogs) to helping law enforcement through detecting illegally imported items such as drugs and to helping visually impaired people navigate (blind dogs)

But cats? 

OK, you're never likely to see anything resembling a cat version of jump! the ultimate dog show but cats CAN be trained and it's lots of fun.

What sort of commands can you teach a cat?

Cats can be taught to sit, to roll over and to shake a paw, to stay and to come when called.

Here's an example of how someone has trained their cat to do most of those things.

OK, so how do you do it? Here's three basic principles:

1. Be patient. All cats are individuals and each one will react differently when training begins. Some will ignore you or look at you as if you are mad, whilst others will be very curious and eager. If you want to succeed, you'll need to be motivated.

2. Teach one trick at at a time

You can reinforce tricks your cat has mastered, but don't confuse them by teaching more than one new behaviour at a time.

3. Use rewards to your advantage. Seeking tasty morsels of food or a cat game with a favourite toy are favourite activities. Usually it is the cat who demands these from their owners. So let’s turn it around. Use these motivators to your advantage.

And here's some specific tips:

Ring the bell to enter the house:

Some outdoor cats can be somewhere between annoying and even destructive when trying to come inside. Rather than dealing with scratching or meowing, try suspending a small but loud bell near the door at the cats eye level. When your cat tries to come back inside, stay firm and ignore all the usual behaviour until eventually your cats touches the bell and makes it ring - at which point you reward her by opening the door.

If you repeat this and re-enforce it over a week or so, the cat will soon learn to ring the bell deliberately.

Sit and Hi 5

Given that cats sit a lot anyway this shouldn't be too hard. During a training session, if or when your cat sits then say "sit" and praise her with a pat or a treat. You should also start using your hands to re-enforce hand gestures with the sit command.

You can easily extend this to include a "Hi 5" with you. Firstly, encourage and reward any tiny movements each time your cat raises its paw of the ground. Then place a treat in your fist and wait for your cat to try to grab it. Gradually list your hand higher and when your cat touches your hand with their paw, reward them.

What are your tips? We'd love to hear them.


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