We can all agree that our cats have us trained, right? But did you know it IS possible to train your cat? In fact, you’ve already trained him (or her) in some ways without even realizing it.
Think about how your cat comes running when he hears the sound of a can opener or the familiar crinkle of a treat bag opening up. He’s been trained, or conditioned, to respond to those sounds knowing that there’s a reward for him on the way! Here’s how you can clicker train your cat to do, well, just about anything you want!
When clicker training your cat, you’ll use the same basic principle – identifying a behavior with a sound (“the click”) and then immediately rewarding the behavior.
What You’ll Need:
You can clicker train your cat to do all sorts of tricks, like sit, beg, lay down, speak, spin and jump. But, clicker training is most useful for teaching your kitty to enter his carrier without a fight, to use a scratching post instead of your furniture, to come when called, and to shape most other “good” behaviors. Not only that, it is mentally and physically stimulating for our kitties, who typically spend their entire lives indoors. It’s a way for you to communicate with your cat in ways you didn’t know possible.
Before we get started on learning certain tricks, the first step is to condition your cat to the clicker. Clickers are small, inexpensive plastic devices with a button that makes a unique clicking sound when pressed.
The “click” is necessary because it is a very unique, distinct sound separate from everything else your cat hears throughout the day. Some people have success making a clicking sound with their mouth, or using a ballpoint pen to make a click, but I prefer an actual clicker because it’s consistent. And with clicker training – or any kind of training for that matter – consistency is key.
Use a high-quality reward, like baby food on a spoon or dehydrated meaty treats!
Loading the Clicker:
Our first step in clicker training is known as “loading the clicker” or “charging the clicker” and basically means conditioning your cat to realize that when they hear the click, a wonderful reward is coming. In other words, we want them to associate the sound with a treat.
I have multiple cats, and I like to work with them individually in a separate room. In a quiet area (when you have your cat’s attention) you’re going to click and then immediately give a high-quality reward or treat. Then repeat…click, reward, click, reward. Do this about a dozen times.
You’ll know your cat is making the association with the click and the treat because he’ll look at your treat hand when he hears the click, instead of looking at the clicker.
That’s all the training you want to do at first. Remember – less is more! You can try it again later in the day and every day for a few days for short periods of time.
When your cat understands that a click means a reward, you’re ready to start identifying behaviors you like. For example, if he goes to his scratching post, click and immediately reward him.
If you’re litter training a new kitty, click and reward him when he uses his litter box. If you’re introducing a new pet into the household, click and reward whenever your existing cats are friendly with the new pet. See how this works? Click and reward any and all desired behaviors!
It’s important that you click exactly at the moment the desired behavior happens. You can click-reward any behavior you’d like to see repeated. Try clicking and rewarding when your kitty does something really adorable, like rolling over or touching your nose! Have fun with it.
You’re just at the very beginning stages of clicker training at this point. But, you’re using a very accurate form of communication and strengthening your bond with your cat. Did you even think it was possible to have a stronger bond?
When Clicker Training your Cat, Remember:
Less is more. End the training sessions after a few minutes or when your cat starts to lose interest. This is supposed to be fun for both of you!
Use a high-reward treat, and use it only when clicker training. You’re paying your cat to work for you, and you want to pay him well! I like to use meat flavored baby food but you might have luck with pieces of cheese, tuna, lunch meat or some other really special treat.
Never push your cat. Let them learn at their own pace. I have 6 cats and they are all at different levels in the learning process. I work with them individually, and while some are doing tricks on command, I have one boy who is still getting used to the sound of the click and what it means!
Do not punish your cat if he doesn’t obey your command. Just refocus him on the desired behavior and then reward that.
Only use the clicker when training, don’t click it at other times. We don’t want your cat to get used to the click sound, making it ineffective.
Check out some of the many books available if you want to learn more about clicker training your cat. You’d be amazed at just how much you can teach your cat to do!
What will you teach your cat?
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