It’s a common misconception that cats, unlike dogs, cannot be trained. Yes, you cannot just say, “Fetch, kitty!” and expect your cat to pick up the Frisbee, but it doesn’t mean you cannot teach them simple tricks. You may need more patience and positive reinforcement, but they can be trained effectively if you take the time to train them.
You probably have already trained your cat in some way or another, unintentionally. Animals are able to register the consequences when they encounter something from the environment such as sounds, smells, and sights, and they are able to adapt to them to survive. If they get bad results, they would avoid the same behavior or situation. If they get good results, they will likely repeat it. Is your cat running automatically towards you as you open a can of tuna? Your pet has learned to do that, without you even training it to do so.
However, they can’t be trained in the same way as dogs. While dogs are inclined to please their owners, cats aren’t. They have this “me-me-me” attitude. So, you have to make the training rewarding for them. They are difficult to motivate to do something for you, but they like food.
You can use a clicker to say, “I like that,” and reward them with morsels of treats at the right time. Cats usually like something soft and stinky like tuna, turkey or chicken and other meat cuts. Click and treat whenever you see your cat doing something you like and start from there. The small pieces will entice them to work for it more. Eventually, when your cat has learned that the sound of a clicker means they did something good, you can cut down on treats.
Practice regularly, but don’t train them for too long. Cats have short attention spans. If you can train a dog for hours, you are fortunate enough to receive complete attention from a cat in 10-15 minutes. Teach only one command or trick at a time and repeat it again the next day so that it won’t forget what you have taught it. Once your cat has perfected that, you can move on to another.
Another thing: cats are better off trained while they are still kittens. Once you teach them early, they will absorb what they learned in training better than if you start trying to train them when they are old. You can still train older cats with new tricks and commands, but you might need to exert more effort.
If you find your cat being obnoxious and doing something you don’t like, such as scratching your furniture, don’t punish it physically. Cats scratch simply because it’s their instinct. Understand your pet from their perspective and train them to avoid doing it by positive reinforcement. If you would hit your cat whenever it does something you do not like, it won’t understand you – it would just be scared of you. Instead, reward it if it claws something different, like trees or posts.
If your cat plays too rough and would not stop scratching things in your house, startle it with a loud noise. You can hiss or stomp or clap to startle the cat so it would stop, and then walk away to tell it that play time is over.
However, it may not be easy. Some cats are more inclined to please their owners somehow, but some are just really stubborn and prefer to do their own thing. Remember, cats’ selective personality is what makes them loveable. But, if you are having a hard time training and you truly want your pet trained, hire a trainer in your area who has experience with cats.
The do’s and don’ts
- Make sure you have a safe and friendly environment while training your cat. Things you don’t want your cat to do must not be done by any other family member either. When a cat is at home, it’s more like training the entire family to set-up rules of the house.
- Cats loved to be praised and loved. Don’t forget to rewards or incentivize your cat with love, polite words, snuggles and little treats. Such tiny actions will make your training easier and quicker.
- Don’t upset your cat with the training process or make it painful for it. If you want it to settle in your house quickly you must ensure that during this time, you maintain a relationship of love, companionship and trust.
- Don’t force your cat to do something it isn’t able to, physically or mentally. Learn as much as you can about your cat breed before you plan out their training sessions.
- We have said that you can repeat the training sessions several times a day but this certainly doesn’t mean that you overdo each session. Cats are stubborn in nature; therefore you must know when to stop if it is getting annoyed or frustrating.
- Take your cat to the vet frequently, especially when you both are new to each other. You don’t know how it feels and your cat wouldn’t be comfortable giving you signs either; therefore a vet will identify your cat’s physical and emotional ailments that you may miss out.
Clicker Training for Cats (Karen Pryor Clicker Books)
This is an amazing guidebook for beginners on clicker training. The instructions and mode of writing in this book make communication quick, easy and fun for all the family members. Written by Karen Pryor, one of the leading clicker training experts in the world, this book covers tiny but important aspect of cat training such as how to walk on a leash, how to play games and tricks, how to avoid biting and scratching and respond when any family member calls.
Having a cat trained is beneficial for your household. Once they get used to doing what you like, both of you will be better off. You can even train it with dog tricks like obeying commands such as “stay” and “come,” shake hands, walk on a leash, hurdle obstacles, or even use the toilet. Just take care of them and plan your training sessions according to the goals you wish to achieve.