Rumor has it, and has for centuries, that you can’t train a cat to do anything, no matter what. Some people, who we'll call "C-Haters" to protect their identities, think that felines are dumber than a wet bag of boulders, and can't understand simple training commands. However, those of us who are smart enough to not engage in conversation with a bunch of soggy rocks know far better than that. Besides, cats were born to be wild (between snacks and naptime, that is), and we love them that way!
We also know that cats are curious creatures. They find many ways to express their love for snooping, err, learning, and they enjoy proving how quickly they master new skills. Of course, just like humans, cats must "feel like" doing something to do it. Once your cat has developed a strong bond with you, with just a little effort, you'll find there's nothing your feline angel won't do to please their human.
Tips for Beginning Cat Trainers
All you need to begin is something that makes loud, brief sounds, such as a clicking pen, treats, a game plan, and of course, your kitty. This is a guide for your first day. You’ll be giving lots of treats and praise for commands they haven’t learned yet, but they need the confidence boost to learn as you work with them.
- Click the pen or popping object to get your cat’s attention.
- Speak the command word or phrase you’re learning.
- Move your body in place and then turn back to face the cat again. This is where you will be demonstrating each command you want your cat to execute. This rehearsal makes the transition to the actual command demonstration smoother, and your cat doesn’t get confused.
- Give the cat a treat.
- Praise, love, repeat the steps above!
The repetition of these steps will embed it in both your cat’s memory and in yours. You can use these steps for every command you teach your cat, if it’s easier. We do recommend that you use them every day for the first couple of weeks, until training feels like a normal part of your routine.
Be sure you NEVER forget to give treats or affection, even if they failed more than they succeeded that day in training. What matters is that they don’t stop practicing, and they need your support to keep going!
If you want to stick to the basics of training, like "sit," "up," "shake," etc., great! Those are simple, useful commands that teach manners quickly! However, we learned of some cool, less common tricks that some people taught their feline masters. We wanted to share them with you and explain how they’re done, so you and your pawesome student can continue advancing in training, if you wish!
“Show me” teaches your cat how to lead you to whatever it is they want, rather than tear up furniture or yowl until the family starts throwing pillows to silence them. You can use any word or phrase you like for each task, if you don’t change your chosen command words. It confuses them, and frustrates you.
When the meowing starts, go to your pet. If they do indeed want something, they will pause for a split second, then meow louder, since they have your attention. Proceed according to the training steps above. When you get to the demonstration part, walk a couple of steps in every direction, until the cat follows or bolts past you.
Repeat your command word over and over, until the cat finally leads you to whatever it was he or she needed so badly.
BE SURE TO get their attention and point at it, BEFORE you give them what they want, and repeat your command word once or twice more. Then, give them a couple of training treats and lots of praise. They’ll remember next time.
If you have more than one cat, or pet of any kind, this command may be important. Sometimes at meal or snack times, someone can get a little greedy and try to take more than his or her ration.
To prevent problems in an aggressive showdown, practice with your little thief. Use any kind of snack that you can break into small pieces, EXCEPT for the training treats. To help them learn faster, give them a gentle but firm nudge with your hand each time you say “no.” Your hand will prevent them from barreling forward and pull their focus to you.
Practice allowing your cat to have a bite of the snack, too. This will teach them that, if you don’t say “no,” or whatever word you’ve chosen to teach them sharing, then that bite belongs to them.
After a long day of hard training and harder sleeping, everyone is ready for bed! Unless you have one of those cats who gets clingy and loud to make you go to bed two hours early every night, you might have to seek out your baby.
Once you find the cat, call him or her to you. Gently pick up your kitty, and go straight for the bedroom (or wherever your cat sleeps at night). You can associate the word “bed” with the action, if you like, and eventually, you won’t have to carry a heavy, sleepy munchkin. He or she will hear “bed,” and beat you there.
Sit Like People
This trick is somewhere between “sit,” and “sit pretty.” Often, cats are born with the ability to sit this way, and do so often as kittens. Then, as they get older (and fatter, in some cases), it becomes harder to do, so they just stop. The memory is still in their minds somewhere, though, which means they can relearn quickly.
You can help them practice with treats alone, or by sitting on the floor with them and playing with their front paws while they’re sitting upright. Make a game out of helping them learn to balance again and, of course, tell them how well they’re doing!
This is a command used patients who struggle with disabling mental illnesses so severe that they require the companionship of a service animal. Some patients prefer to register an animal they already have, if the doctor approves. Others receive service animals that completed training courses to learn how to handle disabled patients.
“Love” was a good word to use for this purpose, because that’s what the service cat does when the patient calls out the command. They run to offer comfort, but they are also using their skills from training to assess the entire situation and see if there is anything else they need to do. They “make biscuits” on the patient, like a reassuring massage, they kiss the person’s face and mouth if they stop talking for more than a minute or so, and they stay right by the patient’s side until they’re given the off-duty command.
If you’re wanting to teach your cat “love,” pay close attention the next time something truly upsets you. Your cat will sense your distress and find you, and I bet it takes you half a day to get them off you again! Somehow, they really do just know.