Guest post by World’s Best Cat Litter™.
Tricks are not just for dogs! Despite what you may think, our independent feline friends can be taught to sit and stay on command, as well as perform novelty tricks. In fact, they can even be trained for agility events! While cats are less likely to be motivated by praise than dogs, with these eight tips, you can teach your kitten or cat some handy behaviors.
Use Paw-sitive Reinforcement
Never punish your cat for not learning a new behavior. Punishment causes stress in cats, which creates the unwanted result of more negative behaviors, such as eliminating outside of the litter box. Only teach your cat with positive, reward-based training.
“Treat” Them Right
The above being said, make sure to have the right kind of treats on hand when teaching your cat new tricks. Most cats will need something special and out of the ordinary to motivate them, such as diced poultry, low-sodium tuna, or commercial cat treats. Keep small, bite-size pieces on hand for frequent reinforcement during training sessions.
Work With What You Have
Adapt your cat’s current behaviors into tricks. For example, if you see your cat frequently lying down and rolling over, create an association with the behavior by linking a word, hand motion and treat with it, rewarding your cat and using a specific word and hand motion immediately after your cat performs the trick. Keep hand motions simple, such as a pointed finger for “sit,” or an outstretched hand for “shake.”
To demonstrate a new behavior, start slowly and build up. For example, introduce “shake” by placing your cat’s paw on your hand. You can then build this into “up” by gradually teaching your cat to go higher and higher with his paw.
Repeat – and Repeat Again
After showing your cat a trick, repeat it consecutively so that your cat begins to associate traits and praise with the behavior.
Use a Clicker
Use a simple pet clicker to associate your cat’s new behavior with a sound. Each time your cat does something you want them to, make the clicking sound and give them a treat. These clickers are relatively inexpensive and can be found at pet supply stores, or you can always substitute a clicking pen. Eventually, you can cut down on the amount of treats your pet gets, and use the clicker to initiate a new trick.
Keep Sessions Short and Frequent
Make sure to keep repeating behaviors over and over again in your training sessions so that your cat gets a hang of them, but also keep training sessions brief to hold your cat’s attention and make them want to keep trying.
Introduce One Trick at a Time
Don’t overwhelm your cat. Stick to learning one new behavior at a time, and move on once your cat has mastered that trick.
Use these training sessions as a fun way to bond with your cat. Keep things relaxed, and get ready to show off those adorable smarty cats! (As if you needed another excuse.)