Pet Lady Question

Training Cat Tricks

November 1, 2005      


Q:  My husband thinks I’m crazy when I say we can teach our cats to do tricks.  Is it possible for cats to learn things like dogs do or are they too independent?


A:  Cats can most definitely be trained; however, the training process is a little different than it is with dogs.  Dogs are eager to please their humans and want to learn what is expected of them. (Most problems that dogs have are the result of humans forgetting to teach what those expectations are.) Cats, on the other hand, are more independent and take the attitude of, “What’s in it for me?”  Therefore, when training a cat you must always have a reward ready.  With dogs this reward is faded eventually from training—not so with cats.  The other important aspect of training cats is the trust that must be built between cats and their humans.  Without trust, the cat will not be willing to try new things.  Start out simple to build that trust.   Most of us who live with cats already have trained them to do some things.  When we open a can of cat food, the cat comes running.  This is easily put on command as a “come,” with the cat food being the reward.  Soon the cat will learn to come whenever you call, not just when you open a can of cat food.  If you hold the cat food bowl just slightly over the cat’s head, she will sit back on her legs to look up at it.  Now you can put a “Sit” to this movement and begin to ask your cat to sit before feeding her.  If you raise the dish slightly higher and say “Up,” you will teach your cat to sit up.  If you feed your cats on a high place like a dryer, you can teach the cat to go “Down” by bringing the bowl slightly lower than the top of the dryer.  The cat will squat down trying to reach the food.  Be sure to praise cats profusely and tell them how clever they are during training sessions—they love their egos to be stroked!  Spending time with the animals that share our lives creates a greater bond and understanding of each other.  There is so much to be gained whenever we train with our animals, and that’s true with those kitties too! 


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