Have you figured out how to teach your cat tricks? You can teach them, you know. It requires time and patience. If you’d like to learn how to train them, read on.
As you may be aware, there is an ongoing debate about whether a cat can be trained to perform. Consider this: Big cats, such as lions and tigers, learn to be circus performers.
Maybe you don’t want to join the circus, but why not further your cat’s education? It might try your patience, but would certainly be less dangerous than training a big cat for the circus.
If you have read my post on the Savitsky cats and have watched the videos, then you know that it is definitely possible to train a cat. In fact, it is said that the Savitsky cats can outperform 99% of trained dogs.
I would love to interview Svetlana Savitsky to find out what they do to train those cats. Think about your own cat. When you call your pet, he hears you. It’s quite possible you have trained him with treats to come to you when you call. However, if the cat is busy doing important cat stuff, though he hears you call, he makes a decision. Should he respond or take a message and get back to you?
How have the Savitskys created the desire in those cats to perform as they do? We all know that a cat does something because it wants to, and not because it responds to a command. Those cats must perform because they like doing so.
How do they keep the cats from exiting en masse when confronted by an audience of several hundred people? A great many cats would freak out and run off in such a situation. I find these Savitsky cats amazing.
I’d also like to know how long they train each cat every day. One source I read says to limit practice time to 10 or 15 minutes. Do they work with each cat more than once a day? It would be very interesting to watch them during training.
So, how do you teach a cat tricks? Here are some guidelines for you to try. Though the tricks are simple, it may take a while for the cat to perform them willing. You will gain more appreciation for the Savitskys. First, some training rules:
1) Do not punish the cat, but teach a new behavior with positive reinforcement only.
Be prepared to reward them for doing what you want.
Punishment creates stress, and will not help with the training. Stress is one of the most common causes of problem behavior in kitties, such as compulsive grooming or eliminating outside the box.
2) Remember to use special treats as reinforcement.
Don’t give them just any treat, but find something they really love. Maybe use some diced meat that they like, such as cooked chicken, depending on the cat’s preference.
3) Practice often, but not too much at a time.
Repeat the training several times in a row, and then give the cat a break. Teach one trick at a time and limit sessions to 10 or 15 minutes. Repeat training daily, so the cat remembers what he has learned.
4) Use a clicker to reinforce training.
Reward your cat as soon as she does what you desire. If you use a clicker, this will help with timing. It will teach the cat that what they just did was good.
First you have to teach the cat the meaning of the clicker, so start by clicking and treating with no other action required. A few times of this technique and the cat will learn that the clicker noise means good things are coming. Then you can use it to time rewards for good performance.
5) After the cat masters one trick, move on to another.
The clicker and treats work great to facilitate the cat’s performance. Now you can become creative with what you want the cat to learn. You can also use this technique to teach a cat practical things, like walking with harness and leash.
Here are a few things you can teach the cat to do:
1) Teach the cat to sit
The cat should be on all fours. Then hold a treat in front of its face to get its attention. Then slowly move it until it is between his ears. Often a cat will follow the treat in the air and lower his rear end to get it. When the cats sits, praise it and reward it immediately.
If the cat doesn’t quite sit, give it the treat anyway. With several trials, the cat can improve each time.
2) Teach the cat to give you a high five
First, get the cat to move its paw off the ground, and give him a treat each time he does so. Then put a treat in your closed fist and offer it to the cat. Wait until he uses his paw to try to grab the treat. Reward him.
Repeat many times, gradually lifting your hand higher until the cat appears to be doing a high five.
My cat, Carlos, learned a high five easily. He used to have a habit of lifting a paw in the air just before I put down his food. It was an easy matter to put my hand out, and get the cat to put his paw on it, and then reward him with supper.
3) Train your cat to touch an object
Once the cat has learned to sit, pick an object you want him to touch. Be sure, of course, that the cat is sitting next to it. When the cat is sitting in the proper location, hold a treat near the object. When the cat touches it, give him a treat.
You can train the cat to touch the object with a specific part of his body. If you want him to touch it with his paw, for example, don’t give the treat until he does.
4) Train the cat to sit up on two legs
Hold the treat above the cat, but not close enough for him to touch it. When the cat sits up on his hind legs and reaches for the treat with the front paws, give a command like “sit up” and give him the treat.
5) Teach the cat to shake hands
Sit in front of the cat and touch his paw gently. Tell him to “shake” so he gets used to the command. When he lifts the paw off the ground, grasp the paw, as though shaking hands. Give a treat immediately afterwards.
Before training, make sure the cat knows its name, and teach it to come when called, again using treats.
Yes, it is possible to teach your cat tricks. Just be patient and reward kitty when he “gets it.”
Here are the references I used for this article:
There are other great posts on training cats, if you’d like more information. Many of them include pictures. You may find it helpful to take a look at some of these.
Trick training provides good exercise for the cat, and gives you a chance to interact regularly with him. Enjoy the pet and the process.