Cats are notoriously stubborn. They do their own thing, sometimes to the detriment of whoever’s around, and they’re certainly not about to take orders from you or anyone else.
Is that disdain for authority universal?
You might be surprised to know that you can teach a cat – yes, your cat! – tricks. Will your cat do the tricks with the same doofusy grin as a dog would? Probably not. But if you incentivize her well enough, she might surprise you.
Can Any Cat Learn Tricks?
All cats can learn tricks, as in, they’re smart enough to do so. Each cat has a different willingness to do as it’s told, though. Some cats are going to be more reluctant than others to perform on cue. It’s far easier to train a kitten or young cat to do tricks than it is to train an adult cat, but that’s true for any animal.
How to Train Your Cat
Training a cat is all about positive reinforcement. Cats don’t like to be dominated the way dogs do, and successful training is dependent upon creating a partnership between you and your feline. Here’s how to do it:
- Start by figuring out what will motivate your cat. For most cats, this is treats – the softer, the better. Try and pick a treat that’s only for trick training so she’ll associate it with that and that alone.
- Repeatedly give your cat a command of some kind; starting with “sit” is always easiest. When your cat performs the action, reward her with a treat immediately. She should pick up the connection relatively fast.
- Once your cat fully understands that sitting = treats, incorporate a clicker to reduce her consumption of treats. Before you make the swap, link the clicker to “rewards” by clicking then immediately giving her a treat. Eventually, she’ll understand that the clicking noise itself is a reward. Just don’t give up treats entirely.
- Practice makes perfect! Try to vary the routine, rhythm, and even where you train. Cats are highly intelligent and become bored easily.
Which Tricks Can My Cat Learn?
You might be surprised how many tricks a cat can learn if given constant rewarding motivation. They’re fully capable of learning all the basics: sit, stay, come, speak, lie down, etc. Cats are also intelligent enough to learn complex actions, like jumping through a hoop or even fetching an item from another room.
Although it’s not exactly a “trick,” some cat owners use reinforcement training to get their cats to walk on a leash. Cats aren’t naturally predisposed to being walked, but with enough motivation they’re usually happy to oblige.
Ready to train your cat? It’s easy! Stock up on treats, get yourself a clicker, and dedicate at least 20-30 minutes to training a day to really drive the idea home. And if your cat seems ambivalent? Don’t force her. Cats have pretty strong opinions about, well, everything. She may just not be the kind of cat that likes to work for her food.