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Can Cats Be Trained?

 
By Jungla Luque, Ethologist and dog trainer. June 24, 2020
Can Cats Be Trained?

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Cats are very intelligent and curious animals, which have a great capacity for learning. However, they don't seem to be as interested or motivated as dogs to learn tricks and commands. In fact, they seem to be more independent and maybe even self-centered animals.

So, can cats be trained? Yes, cats are fully capable of learning a variety of tricks and commands. In this AnimalWised article we're going to help you train your cat to do a variety of things by positive reinforcement.

You may also be interested in: Can Pet Rabbits Be Potty Trained?

Training vs. educating your cat

Before we get started on how to train your cat, we must first be clear about the difference between training and educating your cat. The concept of training refers to carrying out some training sessions to your cat will learn to execute an action after being indicated to do so by a certain gesture or an oral order.

You may train them to sit, give you their paw, walk outside with a cat leash, etc. This will imply 10-15min of training everyday, where we patiently train them to execute a trick or command. Then, we reward them with a small and healthy trick.

On the other hand, educating your cat occurs whether you are aware or not. Your cat's education is what they learn on a daily basis, how they should adapt or behave in different daily situations. For example, you may educate your cat to remain calm when about to feed them. Or you may educate your cat not to bite so hard when they're playing with you.

In other words, educating your cat is more about teaching your cat about everyday behavior. This way, their behavior will be beneficial to both of you.

Can cats be trained?

Yes, cats are fully capable of being trained to do a variety of tricks and commands. With that being said, they will need to be trained a little differently to dogs, birds, and other animals. This is because cats are very different, they have a shorter attention span and may not be as interested in treats (as dogs are). This means that although they can be trained, we will need to approach their training differently.

Another common question people ask is: can cats be trained like dogs? In short, no. For better results and less frustrating training sessions, you will need to adapt the training style to your cat. As we've previously mentioned, cats and dogs differ in certain aspects. Therefore, for quicker results and more enjoyable training sessions, it would be best to adapt to a feline training style.

Can Cats Be Trained? - Can cats be trained?

How to train a cat

Training a cat is a process that will require perseverance, patience, and an understanding of feline behavior. We recommend that you take into account the following guidelines:

Short sessions

Training sessions should last no more than 15min a day. Not only will your cat lose interest after a while, but insisting they continue may negatively affect their relationship with you.

It's best to keep the training sessions short so your cat can enjoy the sessions and remain focused and motivated throughout the session. Try training them for 5-10min per day, after they have rested. They shouldn't be feeling too hyper nor too tired.

Awards and motivation

The only way to train your cat is through positive reinforcement. This is when you give them a small prize each time they perform the trick or command. This little prize will motivate them to continue learning and paying attention.

When it comes to choosing a prize, this will depend on your cat. Most cats will be motivated with a healthy cat treat. Others seem to be more motivated for affection. Try different ideas out to see what's best for your cat. It would be best if it's a special treat only given to them when they perform a certain trick or command. This way they will associate the trick with the specific prize.

Easy goals

When starting to train your kitten or adult cat, it's best to start with easy tricks. You can also break the trick into parts that lead up to the final goal. This way, you see progress quicker and it makes it easier for your cat to learn the trick.

For example, if you want to train your cat to stand up on their hind legs, you can break this up into smaller steps. At first you'll try to lure them into lifting their paws for a treat. Then, you'll put the treat a little higher so they need to fully support themselves on their hind legs. Lastly, you'll try to make them understand the trick by performing the same gesture or using a certain word that will allow them to understand what you're asking for.

Avoid physical manipulation and punishment

As we've previously mentioned, we need to train them through positive reinforcement in order to help them enjoy the process and create a stronger bond with our cat. If we try to train them through punishment, it will result in trauma and behavioral issues.

Training a cat will usually take more time than training a dog, so we must be patient, kind and compassionate. Avoid aggressive physical manipulation or punishments. If you feel stressed at any moment, stop their training session and try another day. This is meant to be an enjoyable activity for both you and your cat.

Gestural and verbal slogan

In order for your cat to perform a certain trick or command, it's best to teach them to perform it when observing you perform an oral command or gesture. Cats generally have more facility in learning to obey visual commands, so try to go for a certain hand gesture.

Once you have chosen a visual command you can now associate it with an auditory stimulus. It should be a short and clear word, always said in the same tone of voice to avoid confusion. By breaking this up into two parts, you'll make it easier for you cat to understand the auditory stimulus for the trick. And by choosing a short and concise word, you'll also make it easier for you.

Understand your cat

Each cat is different. Their breed, upbringing and personality will influence how they respond to their training. It's important you observe how they're feeling during the training session so you can adapt to their needs and preferences. If they seem uninterested, bothered, tired, stressed, etc., it's best to leave the training session for another time.

The clicker technique

The clicker technique is a very useful and effective technique for many types of animals. This technique consists of the use of a small box that fits perfectly into our hand. This device has a button that emits a “click” sound that helps us communicate with the animal. Whenever the animal does a desired behavior, we will use the clicker to communicate with them that they are doing well. This is the clicker technique and it is used with dogs, parrots and even rabbits.

To do this technique you must first ask your cat to perform the trick. The second they do, you use the clicker sound and then reward them with a small and healthy treat. Your cat will then associate the clicker with a positive feeling. They've done something that makes their human companion happy. Learn more about the clicker technique in our article about clicker for dogs.

Can Cats Be Trained? - How to train a cat

Tricks to teach your cat

By using the clicker technique, you'll be able to teach your cat a variety of tricks and commands. This technique is one of the best and most effective for animal training. To give you some ideas, here are some ideas of tricks you can teach your cat to do:

How to teach a cat to sit

  1. Hold the clicker in one hand and the prize in the other.
  2. Raise the prize above your cat's head.
  3. Your cat will sit and/or tilt their body back. Click with the clicker and quickly give him the prize.
  4. Continue with their training sessions until your cat is fully seated and associates the gesture of raising the prize above their head with sitting.
  5. Now you can help them associate this action with a clear oral word, such as “sit down” or “sit”.

How to teach a cat to lie down

  1. Hold the clicker in one hand and the prize in the other.
  2. Ask your cat to sit down.
  3. Drag the award from under their head to the ground.
  4. Your cat will begin to tilt its body towards the ground. Click with the clicker and quickly give him the prize each time they approach the pitching position. With time, they will end up lying down for the treat.
  5. Once your cat understands the gesture, associate it with an oral word or phrase like “lie down” or “floor”.

How to teach a cat to roll

  1. Hold the clicker in one hand and the prize in the other.
  2. Ask your cat to lie down.
  3. Drag the prize over its back from one side of its (lateral) body to the other end.
  4. Your cat will continue to head the prize, turning its body on itself from one side to the other. Click with the clicker and quickly give him the prize.
  5. When your cat understands the gesture, associate it with an oral instruction such as “turn” or “roll”.

How to teach a cat to stand on their hind legs

  1. Hold the clicker in one hand and the prize in the other.
  2. Ask your cat to sit down.
  3. Drag the prize up your head to follow, rising off the ground.
  4. Reward minimum elevation off the ground (even if it is only one leg), using the clicker and rewarding them at the moment. You can gradually demand a little more each training session.
  5. Once they learn how to raise their front legs, gradually increase the time they have to endure the stance (that is, first one second, then two, etc.).
  6. Once your cat understands the gesture, associate it with an oral instruction, such as "up".

Want to learn more? Watch this Youtube video by Cat School where they show you how to start training your cat with a clicker.

If you want to read similar articles to Can Cats Be Trained?, we recommend you visit our Basic education category.

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