No matter if you’ve got an adorable kitten who’s been scratching at your chair or an old cat that’s been spraying everywhere in your home, The question of whether or not cats can be trained is a frequent one. Ultimately, the traits that make us appreciate our pets (their ability to think independently, intelligence, and curiosity) are often why they’re not such great trainers.
What if a cat could perform tricks, let alone master basic commands? Learn all about cat training, including how to teach cats to sit and give a high-five and whether it is necessary to teach your cat to use the toilet.
Can You Train a Cat?
“A lot of people think that cats can’t be trained, but that is false,” says Marci Koski, a certified cat behaviorist and training expert based in Vancouver, Washington. “It just takes a little bit of practice and an openness to experimentation, in the beginning, to figure out what drives your cat.”
If you consider it, you’ve trained your cat in many ways she told you about. For example, the cat may know when it’s time for a meal and when you’re ready to cuddle and play because she’s a part of your daily routine. In both instances, she’s there because there’s a reward to be had: attention or food.
Although dogs and puppies tend to be pretty easy to train since they’re motivated by pleasing you in return for a reward and gobble up plenty of food, cats tend to be more independent and, as they’re unable to do the work for free, claims doctor. Heather Graddy is a relief vet and behavior expert in Englewood, Colorado.
The trick is to figure out what drives your cat. Food is generally your top option; her most loved toys or even how she is touched (like scratches on her ears) can also be effective motivators.
Remember that training for cats can be brief (think about ten to 15 minutes or even less). However, even a short amount of time could make a difference since cats have a lot of memories and can remember what you teach them, Koski says. Koski.
Cat Training Techniques to Try
Training your cat is an ongoing trial-and-error process based on the individual cat’s character and preferences. Be open to trying various training methods in brief bursts.
When you’re done, stay clear of harsh punishments (like applying water to your pet with water bottles) to cause anxiety and stress levels and could even harm your relationship with your cat. Instead, it would help if you used positive reinforcement for your cat’s behavior with plenty of rewards.
In preparation for training your cat, Make sure that you have a bag with food (like pieces of cooked chicken or tuna) as well as markers (like an electronic clicker, a finger snap, or your go-to phrase such as “good kitty!” to determine good behavior) and a quiet space. Your area should be inside and free of other pets, people’s activities, or noises. You’re now ready to begin.
How to Train a Cat to Sit
The first thing to consider is: can you teach a cat to sit? Yep! In reality, “sit” is one of the most popular and simple tricks you can train your pet, according to Graddy.
1. 1. Get your cat to sit by placing treats directly above her head and slowly shifting it backward. If your cat follows the reward, she will naturally sit down.
Step 2. 2. When she is sitting in a comfortable position, instantly identify the excellent behavior by clicking your mouse or by telling her, “good kitty!” Give her the treat to reward.
The third step is to Continue as needed. After a few attempts, you can pair the motion by using a hand signal (like pointing down using fingers of your index) and a command in a voice (“Jinx to sit! !”).
How to Leash Train a Cat
It’s true that “sit” seems easy enough, but how do you teach a cat to run on the lead like dogs? Although teaching leash walking to cats is possible, don’t count on your cat to walk along the sidewalk with you. Instead, utilize the leash to allow your cat to explore her surroundings. Let her lead, Koski suggests. Koski.
Before you tie up any cat, be aware that cats with a tendency to become agitated or ones who have never been outdoors might not be suitable candidates for training on leashes. An unfamiliar environment can trigger anxiety, stress, or problems with behavior.
If your cat is interested in adventure or frequently stares at the sky, Here’s how you can guide her to:
1. Get a cat harness or a walking vest. It’s a safer alternative than a collar your cat could snoop from.
2. Step 2: Increase your cat’s exposure harness by placing it on the ground with treats beside it, then picking it up and allowing her to pet it or rub against it. Offer plenty of food to lessen anxiety and build a positive connection with the harness.
3. Step 3: Work towards wearing the harness by draping it on her, then putting it in one pet’s paw, and so on, with lots of treats throughout the process. After that, let her go around the house with it on.
Step 4. If she’s relaxed with the leash, you can attach it and let her explore.
5. Step 5: Pull the leash up and gradually draw your cat outside using treats.
If your cat is nervous or stressed at any time during your leash-training sessions, put it down for the day and then try the next day again.
How to Train a Cat to Do Tricks
If you’re trying to figure out how to teach your cat to do many tricks, here’s the good news: The same strategy is applicable. Similar to “sit,” tricks like “stay” and “come” can be taught by combining the behavior that is good with a click, reward, and visual signal.
It’s the same for “shake” as well. When your cat can learn to sit, shake her paws and offer her a click and a treat. Next, gradually move your hand away until she reaches out to get her hands on it for the “shake” and pleasure.
How to Train a Cat to Use a Scratching Post
Of course, teaching your pet to avoid unwanted behaviors can also be helpful. One of the most significant issues pet parents have to deal with is when their cat is fond of scratching furniture or curtains. Punishing your cat for this behavior isn’t practical because scratching is a natural urge. Instead of reaching for the spray bottle, offer your cat an alternative that she’s unable to resist.
Here’s how you can help your cat learn to scratch a scratching post:
Step 1: Place a cover over your couch. Double-sided sticky tape can keep away scratches from the corners of couches.
2. 2. Find a scratching surface your cat would like to use. Think about what she enjoys for a scratching post, like material with a similar texture and material similar to your favorite couch.
Third step 3. Place the scratching post on the furniture, surround it with toys and treats, then reward her with “good kitty!” and treat each scratch. Do not make her scratch it; cite her each time she can use the scratching posts independently.
4. Once you have had several instances of rewarding her using the scratching post close to the curtains or sofa, gradually relocate the scratching board to a different spot. Reward her until it is a routine.
Can You Toilet Train a Cat?
“Can you train cats to use the toilet?” is among Koski’s most resisted questions. The fact that you can train cats to do something doesn’t mean you must, she says.
Toilet training can be a challenge to the nature of your cat. Cats prefer to get in a secure, sand-based space and scratch their bodies before using the bathroom, and jumping on the toilet doesn’t solve these issues, says Graddy.
In a catastrophe, an animal trained to use the toilet may injure herself leaping on or off the outlet. Likewise, the training may result in a desire to cause an unclean environment in the home.
Therefore, although some cats are taught to go to the bathroom, sticking with a traditional litter box is the best option.
Cat Training: When to Seek Professional Help
Even if you are a fantastic cat trainer in your home, your cat may need more assistance than you provide.
An abrupt shift in behavior, such as eating or going to the toilet outside the litter box, could indicate a more serious medical problem, such as arthritis-related pain or an infection. If this is the case, contact your vet as quickly as possible to determine the next steps, suggests Graddy.
Suppose you’re struggling with spraying, aggression, or soiling in your home. In that case, a licensed cat behavior specialist can assist you in determining the root of your cat’s behavior and suggest ways to deal with it to improve the overall situation for your cat and your family.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out,” says Graddy. “We’re here to help, and it’s easier to fix a problem earlier rather than later on.”