Training Tips for Your Cat or Kitten
Use a Clicker
A clicker can make training easier and faster. If you don’t have a clicker, you can use a pen that makes a clicking sound. The instant your cat does the correct behavior, click and then offer a treat. The click lets your cat know the instant he does the right thing, so it helps him catch on faster. Just make sure you click at the exact moment he does the behavior you want, and then give him a treat. Cats learn through repetition, just like we do, so you’ll need to practice a few times in a row. Keep your training sessions short though-just a few minutes at a time. Most cats get bored if you try to drill the same thing over and over.
While training your cat, keep in mind that cats respond very poorly to punishment! Rather than learning what behavior not to do, a punished cat usually just learns to run away. Depending on your cat’s temperament, punishment can frighten your cat to the point where he may hide from you and your family members. Punishment creates stress, and stress is one of the most common causes for problem behaviors in cats, including eliminating outside of the litter box and compulsive grooming. Stress also compromises the immune system, making your cat more vulnerable to disease, including feline idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).
It’s much easier to train your cat when you reward behaviors you want and offer him more attractive alternatives for behaviors you don’t want. Persuasion, not punishment, is the key to training your cat. If you patiently practice and reward your cat with treats, you’ll soon have a cat who’s sitting on cue and purring contentedly.
Finding Help and More Information
If you’d like to learn how to train your cat, or if your cat has a behavior problem you’d like to resolve, don’t hesitate to seek help from a qualified behaviorist. To learn more about locating the right expert for you and your cat, please see our article, Finding Professional Help. Many Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs or ACAABs) offer telephone consultations, in-home private consultations and training sessions, and some Certified Professional Dog Trainers also offer group classes for kitten socialization and basic training.
Here are a few books and links to explore:
- Clicker Training for Cats Fun Kit by Karen Pryor
- Teaching Your Cat Simple Tricks by Arden Moore
- Cat Behavior and Training: Veterinary Advice for Owners by Ackerman, Landsberg and Hunthausen
- Good Owners, Great Cats by Kilcommons and Wilson
- International Cat Agility Tournaments