They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the real question is, can you teach a cat any tricks at all? Cats are well-known and admired for their independent, regal behavior, a trait that often leads many to believe that cats can’t be trained. As it turns out, cats can learn to do tricks of all sorts! If the idea of training your cat is something that interests you, take a look at some of the easy starter tricks you can teach your cat provided below!
Simple Tricks You Can Teach Your Cat
Training cats is much like training dogs or any other animal. You just have to find a way to get their attention and incentivize them to engage in certain actions. This can often be done with a combination of affection, food, and a clicker.
Clicker training has become popular because the tone of the clicker never changes unless you use a different device. The sound of the clicker can never be misinterpreted. The idea being that the trainer marks the behavior for the animal with the clicking noise and then reinforces it directly after with a reward of some sort.
Once the animal has the behavior down, the trainer no longer needs to use the clicker and can use treats or affection alone. One of the best starter tricks you can teach your cat is to teach them to sit, give you their paw, or give you a high-five.
Teaching Your Cat to Sit
A popular YouTube cat trainer, CATMANTOO, suggests using a combination of minced meat and canned food along with clicker training to train your cat. It is important to remember that cats can learn tricks with the right amount of motivation and patience. If you make a lot of progress one day and don’t see the same results the next day, keep your chin up. It is just part of the process!
How to Get Your Cat to Sit on Demand
- Set your cat on a chair or table.
- Have your can of food and spoon prepared (the canned food is generally going to be less fatty and full of empty calories than treats).
- Put some food in one hand and hold the clicker training tool in your other hand or in the same hand if you have room (there are training clicker phone apps, or you can buy one at the pet store).
- Show your cat the food.
- As the cat moves towards the spoon, push the spoon towards the cat’s face and a bit up and over its head.
- This will result in the cat backing up and having to sit to try to get the food.
- If the cat paws at the food, hold the food a bit higher.
- Once the cat sits its bottom on the surface, click the clicker or say yes to mark the behavior and feed the cat the food in the spoon (please note this will be a small bite at the tip of the spoon). Do not let them stand to eat.
- Get the cat to stand again by touching its belly to lift him up from sitting position. If your cat does not like to be touched in this area, lure the cat into standing position with the food.
- You will want to do this over and over, being as consistent as you can with the sound and food reinforcement.
- Train for no more than two minutes at a time.
- Do the sessions at least once a day and up to four times a day.
Remember, your cat has never learned to learn human-guided processes before. You need to break new tricks down into micro-steps that the animal can learn in many short sessions if you are looking to succeed.
Teaching Your Cat the Classic High-Five
One of the most popular and beloved tricks you can teach your cat is the high-five. If you teach your cat to do this, your guests will not likely forget it. Much like with the previous exercise, you will start with a clicker and food. You will then need to:
- Have your cat on a raised surface and have the food and clicker ready.
- You will want to start by having the cat in a sitting position or get them into a sitting position with the food.
- Raise the food a bit higher above the cat’s head, but far enough away that the cat tries to bat at the food.
- When the cat bats at the food, intercept the cat’s paw with your hand. You will want to start with your palm facing up. Then come in underhand to meet the cat’s paw until your cat is used to the maneuver.
- When the cat’s paw touches your hand, click the clicker and feed the cat some of the snacks.
- Continue repeating this. Only have the cat’s paw on your hand while it is eating.
- Once the two of you have this down, turn your hand like you are giving someone a high-five.
- Repeat all of the steps as needed and use the same training bursts provided in the first exercise.
What to Do Once You Start Working on More Complicated Moves
As you and your cat continue to bond and learn together, you will be able to teach your cat more complicated tricks. You can even train them up for the next cat agility race in your area. Points to remember when training your cat are:
- Make sure that your cat is properly motivated.
- Try not to give your cat too many junk food treats (yes, they make junk food for cats too).
- Break tasks down into short steps that cats can learn over time.
- Be patient; there is a significant language barrier between you and your cat.
Cat Breeds That Respond Better to Training
It turns out that many of the same cat breeds that enjoy water are also the easiest to train. My recent post titled “Six Cat Breeds That Love the Water” talks about the Turkish Van, Bengal, Maine Coon, and American Shorthair, which are all lively, curious, and easier to train than other breeds.
While you won’t have a circus cat in your possession, the right amount of patience and treats can yield amazing results. Your cat, like any other animal, is more than capable of learning tricks. If you want your cat to quickly pick up on new behaviors, use this guide and apply it to your own list of tricks you want to teach your cat!