Imagine putting your cat in a carrier to take her to the vet. Does your cat resist being placed inside the carrier? Does she cry all the way to the vet, the entire visit at the vet, and again all the way back home? Do you lose a little blood at each attempt to trim your cat’s nails? It adds stress to your life, and adds stress to your cat. It does not have to be this way. Cats can be trained. Really! My cats are trained to sit, high five, yawn, jump through a hoop, and walk on a leash. They also allow their nails to be trimmed without a struggle. The cats are crate trained. They are so quiet in a crate, that sometimes I forget I put them there.
There are two major ways that cat training often appears to be different from dog training. The first major difference is food. Cats are often “free fed”, or food is left out for the cat all the time. It can be difficult to get a cat to work for food if food is always available for free. Feed your cat meals, and remove the remaining food after fifteen or twenty minutes. Some cats will work for store bought cat treats, but some will not. Many pet stores sell freeze dried shrimp or tuna as a treat. These are very popular items with cats. You can use real food treats such as chicken, turkey, beef or liver. Make sure your treats are very, very small! Test your treats before you try to train your cat. Does your cat like the treats? Eat them fairly quickly? Cry for more? If so, your treats are desirable.
The second major difference is fear. Cats can be fearful of new situations and new things. Patience is required when habituating a cat to novelty. Use very high value treats and wait for any small movements from the cat. The high value rewards will help the cat overcome her fears.
An excellent beginning behavior is targeting. Targeting is touching or following a target. A target can be a stick, like a pencil or a chop stick, or something flat, like a post it note. Place the target, or the end of the target, near the cat’s nose. When the cat sniffs or touches the target with her nose, give her a treat. Repeat five to ten times. You may then present the target a little further away, so the cat must take step or two to reach and touch the target. After several sessions of training, your cat may be able to walk five or ten feet to touch the target. Target training can be very useful. You can teach your cat to walk on a leash, to jump through a hoop, or to get into a cat carrier using target training.
A pet that has been trained has not only learned a few tricks, but has also discovered a new way to interact with and communicate with people. Training your cat can be fun for you and your pet. Training can increase the bond between pet and pet owner.
Happy cat training!
Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed
trainer @ dogSgonegood.com (remove spaces to send an email)