Did you know that it’s possible to train your cat in the same way you’d train a dog? What’s more, there are many reasons to do so.
Aside from teaching your cat fun things, like how to fetch, shake hands, and how to sit – you can also teach your cat to walk on a lead and abide by a curfew.
In fact, cats are awesome learners and spending time training your cat is a fun way to create a lasting and loving bond with Kitty.
Tips to train your cat
Firstly, clue up on a few basic tips on how to train your cat. After all, there are some differences in the way cats learn, compared to dogs.
Tip #1 — Positive reinforcement is best
Kristina Vesk, CEO of The Cat Protection Society of NSW, recommends using positive reinforcement to train your cat.
She advises, “Positive reinforcement is a great tool when trying to train a cat. This is especially helpful when teaching a kitten how to use a litter box, how to walk in a harness or not to jump on the kitchen counter.
“Pet owners must remember that training a cat doesn’t happen overnight and positive reinforcement is the best way to train your kitten. However, praise doesn’t always need to be food motivated. Some cats prefer food while others will beg for your attention. So make sure to learn what your cat wants, as this will help immensely. ‘Good boy/girl’ isn’t just for dogs and kids!”
Tip #2 — Take it slow
Whether you’re teaching your cat a special trick or a practical behaviour, like how to walk on a lead, take your time.
Don’t move on to the next trick or behaviour until your kitty has fully mastered the current one.
Tip #3 — Practice makes perfect
Certainly, practice makes perfect so repeat the training process but don’t overdo things. The last thing you want to do is tire your poor cat out or bore the pants off him or her!
Ideally, your cat will enjoy being trained. So pay attention to his or her behaviour. If Kitty doesn’t look like she’s having fun, then take a break.
However, if the training is going well, keep practising. Repeat the training each day until your feline friend has mastered the trick.
Tip #4 — Introduce a clicker to cut back on treats
Rewards are important when you train your cat but eventually, you might want to cut back on the treats, particularly if they’ve been food-based.
Introducing a clicker can be helpful. Start by using the clicker and a treat in combination. The cat will start to associate the sound of the clicker with reward. Eventually the clicker will be a reward in itself, as the cat will know it’s being praised.
How to train your cat to abide by a curfew
Encouraging your kitty to return home at dusk and establishing a curfew is important but how do you go about doing this?
Kristina says food and attention will do the trick! “Once your cat comes inside to eat dinner don’t let them back out; don’t make exceptions, keep to a strict routine.
“Like babies, cats thrive on routines but it takes patience to establish them. The key is consistency. Have lots of playtime with your cat after dinner and relax with them while you read or watch TV. Make sure they have access to fresh water and a clean litter tray overnight. When all the best things in life are indoors: you, food, toys and a snug bed, then your cat will want to be inside. But your cat absolutely must be desexed; if not, you can guarantee they’ll wander far and put themselves in danger.”
Mistakes to avoid when training your cat
Of course, it takes time and commitment to train a cat. However, if you feel your cat is being stubborn, it might be that you’re doing something wrong.
Here are a few common mistakes to avoid when training your feline friend.
- Using punishment instead of positive reinforcement. By doing this you are focusing on negative behaviour, which can lead to additional bad behaviour.
- Training for too long. 10-15 minutes a day is plenty long enough! Stick to short sessions (just a couple of minutes each) spread throughout the day.
- Over-reliance on treats (the last thing you need is a fat cat on your hands)
- Too much clicking. Cool the clicking already! By getting clicker happy and stopping offering rewards your cat will begin ignoring the clicker altogether. Epic fail!
- Having unrealistic goals. Don’t expect your cat to learn a bunch of new tricks in a day. Take it slow and reward your cat’s good behaviour and in time Kitty will master what you want to teach her.
Have you trained your cat? We’d love to hear your tips or what approach worked for you.