You’ve heard the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but some people think you can’t teach ANY cat ANY tricks. This simply isn’t true! Cats are highly intelligent, motivated, and very trainable if you use the right tools. The best of these tools is clicker training.
Clicker training involves using a small clicker that fits in the palm of your hand. You can buy clicker training supplies online or at your local pet supply story.
How does clicker training work? The second your cat does something right, make a clicking noise and give her a treat. Your cat associates the clicking sound with a compelling reward. This is better than a verbal “Yes!” or “Good boy!” because the clicking sound is fast and completely different from anything else in your cat’s environment.
With clicker training, you can teach your cat to do some truly adorable tricks. Here are the top five tricks you can teach him or her within just a week or so.
1. Entry-Level Trick: Touch The Stick Or Your Hand
This is the easiest trick to teach your cat. When your cat’s nose touches a stick or your hand, make a clicking sound and give kitty a treat. Once your cat gets the hang of it, move your hand a few feet away so she has to get up and come to you. Reward and repeat. Eventually, you’ll be able to get your cat to come to you from wherever she is.
You can teach a cat to sit using the same techniques as teaching her to follow a target. Simply hold a treat over the cat’s head and move the treat back, in the direction of his tail. This will cause her to mimic a sitting position. When she sits, reward her with a click and a treat. Add the command “sit” so she can learn to respond to the word, too.
3. High Five
The high five is just a little more advanced than the “touch the stick” trick. All you have to do is hold your hand with the treat above your cat’s head, higher than he can touch with his nose. Eventually she will realize that she needs to lift her paw to touch your hand. Reward her with a click and a treat. Start saying “high five” when you hold your hand over his head, so she makes the association. When you do this enough times, it will become automatic and she’ll learn what “high five” means.
4. Jump On A Stool Or Chair
Some cats will progress through these lessons really fast, so be prepared! Once your cat’s gotten the hang of high-fiving and sitting, teach him to jump on a chair! At first, just click and treat when he moves toward the chair or touches the chair with his paw. When he gets the hang of the basics, hold the treat over the chair and say, “jump.” He will want the treat badly enough that he’ll jump on the chair to get it. Click and reward him. Reinforce the behavior with lessons every day!
5. Jump Through A Hoop
This one’s fun and can be the first step toward teaching your cat to run through an obstacle course! Use the target you’ve trained your cat to respond to, whether it’s your hand or a stick. First, lead your cat to the hoop that you’re holding and click and treat as she walks toward the hoop. Start out by keeping the hoop low and lead your cat step-by-step through the hoop, while saying “hoop” so she makes the word association. Eventually, she’ll start going through the hoop faster and faster. Once she’s gotten the hang of this, hold the hoop higher so she can only go through the hoop if she jumps through it. This will become second nature to her and you can use the trick to amaze your friends.
Teaching your cat through clicker training is a great way to build a bond between you and your cat. It also helps expend your cat’s extra energy so he doesn’t get bored and get into mischief. You’ll need to reinforce with repeated or new lessons every day for the best results. And don’t worry if your cat gets bored or stops responding after the first four clicks or so. Cats need time to rest and will build their endurance over time. Keep the lessons short at first and just focus on having fun with your kitty!