Lots of people clicker train their dogs, but few people (even savvy cat owners) realize that clicker training a cat is not only possibly, but quite easy! The general opinion among the human population is that cats cannot be trained; they do things their own way, and that’s just the way it is. The truth is, cats can definitely be trained…it’s just a matter of finding what motivates them. Dogs are motivated by food but also by their need to be a member of the pack. In their minds, they are in constant danger of being designated the pariah of the pack so they try their hardest to please the other pack members (your family.) Cats, on the other hand, do not have a pack mentality. When it comes to cats, there is one surefire motivator: FOOD.
|Photo credit: for-cats-only.com|
So why exactly would you want to clicker train your cat? Some people enjoy feline clicker training for the extra bonding time they get with their cats, and the mental challenge and stimulation it provides indoor cats. Cats can be taught useful behaviors like sit, stay, and even how to walk properly on a leash. Other people use clicker training to teach their cats “parlor tricks” like shake, play dead, or to walk on the hind legs. It’s best to start simple and play to the cat’s specific strengths. "Sit" is a simple and useful first behavior to start out with, and will give your cat a good idea of how the behavior/reward correlation works. For more advanced behaviors, it’s always easier to build on a behavior your cat already exhibits. If your cat likes to stand up on his hindquarters, teach him to do it on command. If your cat likes to roll onto her back, teach her to roll over on cue. Building on natural behaviors is a quick and easy way to add to your kitty’s training arsenal.
Clicker training principles for cats are essentially the same as they are for dogs. When a behavior is properly performed, the behavior must immediately be followed with a click of the clicker and a treat. It’s essential that the cat understands the correlation between the behavior and the food reward; if you’re too slow to the punch, your cat may not make the mental connection. It’s also crucial that the verbal and non-verbal cues you give your cat are consistent. If you use a verbal signal like “Sit!”, always use the same tone of voice, the same volume, and the same word every single time. For non-verbal cues like a hand signal, the same idea should be applied. The key to successful training is consistency and repetition. Though it may seem tedious at first, you will be so proud of your kitty cat when they master their first learned behavior!
Watch this video to learn more about the basics of clicker training: