Clicker Training Your Cat

Cats have naturally independent natures, and many pet owners believe that other than basic litter box training or getting them to respond to the sound of a can opener, it isn’t possible to train a cat. It is easier than many people realize to clicker train your cat, however, and the training can create a stronger bond and deeper relationship between you and your feline friend.

Benefits of Clicker Training

Using a clicker to train your cat gives the animal a consistent signal to respond to, allowing all family members to use the clicker with ease. This can reinforce the pet’s perception of the family hierarchy, improving its response to everyone. The training will also provide mental enrichment to your cat, which can lower stress and anxiety and improve behavioral problems. By training your cat in a consistent manner, you are better able to communicate your expectations to the cat, which will be a more rewarding experience for you both. Training can also provide exercise to your cat, improving its mobility, weight management, and overall health for a longer, more satisfying life.

How to Clicker Train Your Cat

Clicker training your cat doesn’t have to be elaborate and it doesn’t require specialized tools. You can purchase a clicker, or you could simply “click” your tongue instead. If your cat is deaf or has any hearing difficulties, you may want to use a penlight as its clue instead, but the training process is the same.
  • Click to get the cat’s attention, and as soon as the animal responds, reward its attention with a favorite treat or special attention, such as petting. This will associate the response to the clicker with positive reinforcement, and the cat will quickly learn to react appropriately to the clicker to earn its reward.
  • Gradually adjust the cat’s responses until the desired behavior or response is reached. This may take several steps depending on the end results, but cats can learn far more quickly than many owners realize.
  • Consider using a target stick (or a pencil, chopstick, or similar item) to direct the cat’s response or attention to a particular activity or reaction. This will help the cat respond appropriately to different commands.
  • Be repetitive with your training, but not for too long. Ideally, training sessions should only be a few minutes each so the cat will learn the proper responses without getting bored or frustrated with the repetitive activity.
  • Consider including voice commands with the clicker training for more versatility. Only use one click or command per action, however, to more clearly communicate with your cat. You can click and say “Up!” at the same time, but if the cat does not respond, do not repeat the command over and over or the cat will become confused and uncertain.
  • Do not punish your cat if it fails to perform as expected, as any punishment will only foster fear, anger, and anxiety between you and your pet. Instead, simply do not offer the treat or reward until the cat completes the expected behavior on command.

Tricks You Can Teach Your Cat

There are many different tricks you can teach your cat with the help of clicker training, including both practical responses as well as fun behaviors that you both will enjoy as games and interaction. Popular tricks include…
  • Come
  • High five
  • Entering a carrier or bed
  • Waving goodbye (high five without contact)
  • Twirling or circling
  • Sitting up, begging, or standing
  • Jumping up onto different levels
  • Jumping through hoops or over hurdles
As your cat learns more tricks, you can even create obstacle courses or more elaborate goals to complete. Do not overdo tricks and training, however, or your cat may become frustrated with long performances that offer only minimal rewards. Instead, enjoy the activities and bonding time with your pet, and stay alert to the animal’s reactions for when it  begins to tire of the interaction. With care and patience, you both will learn one another’s signals and enjoy different training sessions.

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