Most people don’t realise that it’s possible to train a cat. With positive reinforcement you can influence your cat’s behaviour and also teach them some cool tricks! Learn the secrets of cat training and discover a whole new side to your cat.
Positive vs Negative reinforcement
Before you begin, it’s important to understand that cats behave differently to dogs. For instance, dogs respond well to praise whereas cats can be a bit indifferent. Dogs are used to working in partnerships with humans, but teamwork doesn’t come as easily to a cat. However, if you approach the task of cat training with patience, it’s possible to get results.
The number one rule with training cat is to use positive reinforcement. Cats do not respond well to negative feedback (such as swatting or shouting). When cats are punished for bad behaviour they get stressed, which can exacerbate the behaviour.
One example of this is shouting at a cat for urinating somewhere other than their litter box. When cats go to the toilet in the wrong spot, this is usually a sign of stress. Yelling at the cat will only make the cat more stressed, which will likely lead to more toilet trouble.
So, the very first rule of ‘how to’ cat training is: use positive reinforcement. Focus on what you want the cat to do, not on what you don’t want it to do.
Best treats for training cats?
When you first start training your cat, it’s best to reward them with edible cat treats. They probably won’t get very excited about dry biscuits – it’s the soft fishy treats that they love best. We recommend using cat treats made from natural tuna, salmon or mackerel.
When you provide your cat with a treat, you should also use a verbal command or make a sound with a training cat clicker, so your cat associates the sound with the reward. Over time, the sound will become its own reward.
Clickers are great because you can make the sound at exactly the same time that the cat does the right thing. When you follow with a treat, the cat will get good at understanding that the ‘click’ means you are pleased with them.
What can you train a cat to do?
Armed with treats and a clicker, you can essentially start your own ‘cat school’ at home. During your training sessions you can teach them good behaviours and also some novelty tricks. Teach one trick at a time so as not to confuse your cat.
Here are some training ideas you might like to try:
- Sit – When your cat sits down, you can say “sit!” and reward with a treat.
- Come – If your cat starts to walk towards you, you can say “come!” and reward.
- Shake – Hold a treat in front of your cat. If they lift their paw up, say “shake!” and reward.
- In the Box – You can teach your cat to jump into a cat carrier with this trick. Begin by placing a cardboard box in the room: your cat will likely jump inside. When they do, say “in the box!” and reward.
Training a cat to use the toilet
Cat training for toilet is an advanced skill that might take some time to get right, but it is possible. It involves placing their litter box next to the toilet, so they get used to going into the bathroom whenever nature calls. Next, you can place the little box on top of the closed toilet seat – you might need to place a small stool nearby so they can get up there. Finally, you can transition to using a litter tray that is designed to fit within the toilet, using flushable kitty litter. Once your cat gets used to this, you can remove the litter tray so your cat does its business directly in the toilet.
Need cat training help?
While dogs can attend group training sessions, it’s not possible to send your cat to ‘cat school’. A private cat tutor might be a good option if you need some help training your cat. Ask your vet if they can recommend a cat trainer in your area.
The bottom line is you want your cat to feel happy and safe – make sure to always prioritise your cat’s wellbeing. Training sessions can bring you closer and give your cat mental and physical stimulation. You’ll be amazed by what your cat is capable of!