There is the myth that cats are inherently untrainable and that makes them less desirable as pets. Although cats usually mould their behaviour after their owner’s, there are some instances where training is needed. For example, maybe your cat is bored and you need to figure something out to occupy its time. Training can be really fun for both you and your cat. There are also organisational reasons for which you might opt to train your cat. Perhaps you need it to understand that it needs to stop jumping on the table or going into that balcony filled with plants it wants to chew on. As such, here are three tips for training your cat that will hopefully make your bond stronger:
Use its favourite treats
Any sort of training has to be constant and repetitive. It must be done daily or at least weekly, if you want to see any results. It’s very simple to use tasty treats as an incentive for your cat. If you want to teach it basic tricks (sit, roll, lift a paw and so on) for the sake of mental stimulation, this is a great way to go about doing it. Make sure it catches your cat’s attention first. You can take the treat and make them go into position by going after the treat.
You can also simply gently move the cat in the position you want it to be in, if you think they might respond well to that. Whenever it does the motion right after instruction, give it a treat immediately after. Do not wait around. The cat needs to make the connection between what it has done and the treat. That is basic positive reinforcement.
Vocal cues are important
Remember to use a vocal cue at the same time. Praise your cat whenever it does well. It will make it clearer for the cat. In time, you can simply use the same vocal cue to make the cat do the trick. Never punish your cat for not understanding a command! Training your cat is not easy and punishing your cat will never result in something good. You will only traumatise it for no reason.
However, if your cat reacts well to your voice and is generally obedient, you can try saying firmly “no” whenever it does something you dislike. Use it only if you really need it to stop doing whatever it’s doing. Your cat will stop caring about it otherwise. I’m not sure a cat really understands the meaning of “no”, but it can associate it with needing to stop doing a certain action.
In my case, whenever my cat went into a room that’s unsafe for her, I firmly said “no” and turned her around. I started doing that when she was young and I constantly praised her when she did well. Doing that repeatedly for a long period of time helped. My cat can go into that room only if she’s with someone. If she tries to sneak in, I only have to say “no” to her for her to come back. If I’m there already but I need her to leave, it’s enough for me gently nudge her into the right direction. She understands.
On top of vocal cues, try clickers as well
If your cat doesn’t respond well to your voice or to the sounds you can make, try a clicker or an app that mimics that sound. It’s a sharp, loud enough sound that instantly captures its attention. Using the first tip regarding training, you can use the clicker whenever your cat does a trick. People use clickers mainly for this, but if you want stronger reinforcement of a certain behaviour (like getting your cat off of the table), you can use it. Make sure to time it correctly. As soon as your cat gets off of the table, use the clicker and give it a treat.
Whenever it seems to be patiently waiting, do the same thing. It will learn that waiting on the floor gets it treats and praise, therefore it must be good. Getting impatient and climbing on top of the table gets it no reward. The clicker will intensify the memory and it will be easier for your cat to remember what to do. It might stop the behaviour completely or you might have to keep using the clicker to remind it what to do.
Hopefully these three tips for training your cat were useful. Although cats have the reputation of being aloof, they are lovely pets that can understand their owners just as well as dogs can. While dogs are more receptive to obeying their humans, it doesn’t necessarily make it very easy to train them. You need to be patient and loving to any pet that you attempt to train. Your bond will be stronger and your dynamic will improve.