6 Tips To Teach Your Cat Tricks and Why It’s Important

Every cat owner knows that cats are just as fun as dogs. Did you know that with the right kind of training, cats can learn just as many commands as their canine counterparts? Training cats to do tricks keeps them mentally and physically engaged, prevents boredom, and helps them to bond with you. Although an indoor lifestyle is much safer for domestic cats, they require additional enrichment to match the stimulation their natural environment would offer them.

Photo by Daria Shatova on Unsplash

Teaching your cat tricks is a great way to pass the time indoors during the snowy Toronto winters or to stay cool in the summer while enriching your cat’s life at the same time. You can train your cat to do almost any trick you can think of.

Some of the simple tricks you can teach your feline friend are:

  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Down
  • Go to bed
  • Come
  • Fetch
  • High-five or “paw”

Use the following six tips to teach your furry friend any trick:

  • Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement in the form of treats and praise is the best way to motivate your cat to learn tricks. Each time your cat performs the correct behaviour when you give a verbal or visual cue, give them a treat. It may take them several tries to make the connection, but positive reinforcement will help them stay engaged in the training session more than harsh discipline.

  • Noise cues like a clicker

Using a cue, like a clicker, can help your cat identify the exact behaviour you are rewarding. For example, if you are teaching the sit command when your cat sits, click the clicker, and then give them a treat. You can also use visual or physical cues, such as tapping the cat’s nose. 

  • Train your cat to respond to your voice

Ideally, you want your cat to respond to your verbal commands, not just clickers or treats. Once your cat learns to associate the trick with the verbal command by receiving treats, try removing the treats and offering praise instead. You can continue to have training sessions with your cat and offer treats on occasion.

  • Keep your practice sessions short and sweet

Just like humans, overtraining a cat can have a negative impact. To keep your cat excited about learning tricks, keep training sessions short and positive. Keep your cat’s personality in mind and be careful to avoid sensory overload.

  • Start with behaviours your cat already displays

While you may have seen a cute video of a cat jumping rope on YouTube, it’s best to begin training with simple behaviours your cat already displays. Commands like sit, lay down, or come are popular first tricks for cats. Every time you witness your cat performing a behaviour you want to teach, give the verbal command to reinforce the connection.

  • Use repetition

Once your cat learns a new trick, repeat the trick five to ten times with the same cues. Give a treat each time. To keep your cat interested, make the training treats small so they are motivated to keep working for more.

Most Common Mistakes When Training a Cat

There are a few common mistakes people make when attempting to train a cat for the first time. By learning what to avoid before you start working with your cat, you’ll have a much easier time with your training sessions. Some of the most common mistakes people make in their cat training are:

  • Training too often or not enough

Attempting to train your cat too long or too often may backfire as your cat will grow bored and lose interest. You should aim to train your cat consistently with positive reinforcement and then practice their repertoire of tricks regularly so they don’t forget them.

  • Harsh discipline or Punishment

Punishing your cat for not paying attention or performing during your trick training sessions can deter your cat from wanting to participate in more training with you.

  • Overuse of treats

While positive reinforcement is a great way to train your cat to do new tricks, once your cat has learned to recognize the cue for a trick, you can try swapping some of the treats with pets or praise. If you give your cat too many treats, they may gain unwanted weight and eventually suffer from health problems like feline obesity. And, if you give your cat too many treats at once during a training session, they may become distracted by eating and not return to your session.
Follow the above tips to train your cat to impress a crowd while enriching your lives together. Don’t worry if your cat doesn’t catch on right away. With a consistent training schedule, your cat will be doing tricks in no time. If you have questions or concerns about your cat’s behaviour, consult an online vet.

 

 

About Joel Levy 2258 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography