3 Easy Ways to Start Training Your Cat

3 Easy Ways to Start Training Your Cat

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By Zazie Todd, Ph.D.

If you’ve never trained one of your pets before, it may seem a little intimidating to get started. Especially when your pet is a cat. But the good news is that despite the stereotypes, a growing number of people are realizing that cats can be trained and that it’s fun for both you and the cat.

This article explains why we should train our cats, plus 3 easy ways to get started.

The benefits of cat training

Training can have several benefits for cats. Training cats doesn’t necessarily mean teaching them tricks, although it can, as it can be a fun enrichment activity for you and your cat.

Most often, the training we do with our cats aims to help the cat in its everyday life. This is especially the case when it comes to training cats to get into their carrier, as many cats run and hide as soon as they see their carrier come out, but it is necessary for them to go to the vet. In fact, research shows that Vet visits are easier when cats are carrier trained. Not only is it easier to get them to the vet in the first place, but the vet is also more likely to be able to complete the exam.

It is even possible to train cats for veterinary procedures and medications. For example, a few years ago, International Cat Care developed videos explaining how to teach a cat to use an asthma inhaler.

The process of training with positive reinforcement can be beneficial for cats in itself, even if you don’t have broader goals. One study found that when cats are frustrated in a shelter, training can help improve their health and make them more satisfied. Additionally, any cat can be trained, as another study of shelter cats showed where even the shyest and oldest cats were able to learnn some new tips.

So how do you train a cat?

The best way to train a cat is to give it small pieces of tasty treats or food as positive reinforcement. You can find some tips for choosing treats for cat training here.

There may be cases where playing or brushing will also work as positive reinforcement, although this depends a lot on the cat, as some hate being brushed, in which case you would punish them instead and we don’t want that.

Some people like to use a clicker, which means they click at the exact moment the cat performs the desired behavior, then give a treat after the click. Sometimes using a clicker is very helpful, but it is not necessary for the activities below. A small study found that training progressed better when the cat was rewarded with food only compared to if they heard a beep before the food or if they received no food at all. (Of course, you can’t expect your cat to work for nothing, hence the need to give him treats!).

For the 3 activities below, you will need to choose a food treat that you are going to use.

Then find a place to store it where it will be easy to get when you need it. Maybe in a cupboard or in a jar on a counter or shelf.

3 Easy Ways to Start Training Your Cat

If you want to try training your cat, here are 3 easy ways to get started that you can incorporate into your daily interactions with your cat. Choose the one you like the most and try it.

Teach your cat to come when called

When people try to claim that cats can’t be trained, I ask them if they’ve ever seen a cat run to the sound of a bag of treats or a can opening, because then the cat showed that he had learned. that the sound predicts something pleasant and tasty for them.

For this activity, you need to choose a word that you will use as a recall cue. Although it may be the cat’s name, there are probably many situations in which you use the cat’s name. Plus, they probably already know it (as well as the names of other animals in the house).

So choose a word that you will use only when you want your cat to come when called. “Here, kitty! », “Come”, “Treats!” and “Come here” are all options, but choose something you like and that will be unique to this situation.

You want to make sure you use this reminder cue before something starts happening with the treats.

So make sure your cat is within earshot, say your recall signal, then go get the treats from where you hid them, then go find your cat and give them a treat.

Wait a minute, isn’t the cat supposed to come to you? Yes, but at first they don’t know that the reminder signal means anything. It’s up to you to teach them that when they hear the recall signal, it means they’re going to get a delicious treat.

If your cat is already coming to hear the treat package, you’re one step ahead. They will soon learn that the signal means you are going to take out the treats and will start coming for the signal instead of waiting for the rustle of the package.

But even if your cat doesn’t come for nothing so far, he will learn that the signal means you will receive treats.

Over time, you can start having your cat walk a very short distance for the treat and then increase from there. But since this article only presents simple ways to get started, we’ll stop here for now.

Remember that the treats must be put away in advance and the sequence is: “Here kitty!” (or whatever your recall cue is), get the treats, give your cat a treat.

Make sure that every time you say the recall signal, your cat receives a food reward. Train several times a day at random times.

Cat Carrier Training Steps

Depending on your cat’s current comfort level with their carrier, this one may be a little more difficult, so we’re going to make it very easy for you and your cat and start at a very basic level. But there is one very important rule for this training exercise: you are not going to lock your cat in the cage.

Let’s say the carrier lives in a closet and only comes out when you go to the vet. Take it out of the cupboard and clean it to make sure it doesn’t contain any smells from the vet or from times when your cat was scared.

Then find a nice blanket or soft towel to put on the bottom, so it becomes a space that could be a cozy space. hiding place for your cat.

Place the cat carrier in a room that you use often. Don’t put it in the middle of the room; choose a place that does not bother you and where the cat would like to be. This could be at the edge of the room or next to a couch, perhaps.

Then choose where you are going to put the treats. Did your cat run and hide when he saw you doing something with the carrier? If so, you can place the treats near the entrance to the room. Was your cat really bothered by the sight of the carrier? If this is the case, you can place the treats close to the carrier, perhaps 12 inches away. Or if they’re really brave, place them right at the entrance to the carrier.

About 3-5 times a day, at random times, go get a treat and put it there. Your cat can come and eat it whenever he wants.

Remember that you are not going to lock the cat in the carrier even if it fits completely. He receives a treat simply by approaching it, where “close” is defined as a distance at which your cat feels safe, even if it’s in the hallway near the entrance to the room.

Of course, one day you will want to lock your cat in the carrier and take him to the vet. If you would like to follow this training, you will find a plan in the back of my book Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy.

Use the scratch post

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats, which means we can’t expect them not to do it: scratching keeps their claws in good condition, gives the cat a full body stretch, and removes pheromones pads in the paws.

I hope you already have one good scratching post which is beautiful, big and also robust. Research shows that cats will use a scratching post if one exists, and are also more likely to use it if they are reinforced to do so.

What you’re going to do for this training exercise is wait for your cat to use the scratching post, stay still and quiet while he uses it, and as soon as he’s done, give him a treat.

This is a training technique called capture because you wait for a behavior that your cat will do anyway, then use positive reinforcement in the form of a treat to increase the likelihood that he will do it again.

You will need to store the treats somewhere within easy reach so that you can quickly give the treat to your cat as soon as she is finished using the post. You don’t want to give it away early – or do anything that suggests you’re about to give it away – because you don’t want to interrupt the cat in its claws.

If you wish, you can also take a moment to check out your cat’s scratching post(s) to make sure you and your cat are happy with it. Keep in mind that every cat has preferences for the type of material (although most will be happy with a sisal post), and some cats also like having a horizontal scratching post.

Training your cat is fun

Once you’ve tried one of these activities for a while, you can add another. I hope you and your cat enjoy these 3 easy training activities. Let me know how you get on!

If you liked this article, check out my book Purring: the science of making your cat happy. Modern cat the magazine calls it “an indispensable guide to improving your cat’s life.”


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