Yes, You Can Clicker Train Cats!
Firstly, why would you want to train a cat?
OK, we love cats for their independent spirit and their ‘On my terms’ purr-sonality. But sometimes, it’s good to have them do what you ask…just once in a while. This might be to break a bad habit (such as counter surfing) or to recall kitty, or maybe you want to bond with your cat whilst providing vital mental stimulation through training.
Second, finding that ‘must-have’ morsel
Anyone familiar with the ironic expression: “As easy as herding cats”, will be dubious about our feline friend’s inclination for co-operation. However, all it takes is finding the right meow-tivation to become a training ninja.
Find that ‘must-have’ morsel that makes kitty drool and you’re halfway there. The secret here is to understand all cats have a price for which their attention can be bought. For some this might be cubes of chicken, cheese, or ham, for other’s it slivers of tuna, flakes of salmon, or pieces of steak.
If your cat turns her nose up at sausage, cross it off the list and move onto prawns, and keep going until you’ve found that magic morsel that makes kitty’s eyes glow with greed. (Of course, always consult your vet first if you pet has health problems or special dietary needs.)
Third, click-clack means a tasty treat
Now you teach the cat that the click-clack of a clicker means “Bingo, you just earned a treat.”
Do this by placing a cube of their must-have morsel on the floor, and as she gobbles it down, press the clicker.
Do this several times and you’ll soon find that the cat anticipates the treat when she hears to clicker. You’re on the home straight now.
Fourth, teaching a trick
Once the clicker sounds and the cat looks for a snack, then you’re ready to teach her a trick. This is as simple as clicking the behaviour you want her to do, labelling it with a cue word, and giving a reward.
For example, you’re sick of standing on the doorstep shouting “Sunny, come here,” on rainy days. You decide to teach recall. Start by clicking the cat as she happens to pad towards you and say the word “Here”. The message you are sending out is that coming towards you is a simple way to get an ultra-tasty treat.
Do this several times a day. Click and treat when she happens to walk to you, and don’t forget to say “Here”, click and reward her with supper when it’s meal times.
You can teach pretty much any behaviour or trick, if you break it down into baby steps and reward each part of the process. However, starting with recall is a good safety tip.
Imagine your indoor cat slips out past you out of the door on a dark night. She’s so frightened that she goes to ground and hides. However, the cat with purr-fect recall will leave that safe spot and come to you, hence saving you both a night of anxiety and worry.
Give it a go today! Oh, and do share your top tips for tasty treats with the Jackopaw community by leaving a comment.