Please note that some posts contains affiliate links & I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links Find out More

Trick Training Tabby: How to Teach Cats Tricks

by | Mar 29, 2020 | Cat Behavior & Care | 0 comments

With many of us confined to home, and our cats demanding more attention, I’ve heard from many folks wondering how to manage pestering kitties. Others have adopted a new kitten (bless you!) and are at a loss what to do. Why not train cats? Training offers one of the best ways to connect with new kitties or enhance the bond with our longtime cat friends. We expect our dogs to know basic manners, and rarely feel surprised if King offers a “sit” on command, or a paws-up to “shake” when asked. But folks guffaw at the mere mention of cat training. This may be the purr-fect time to teach Tabby some tricks!

teach cats tricks

Training Cats

Cats train as readily (or even more easily) than dogs. Just think of how quickly that kitten learns litter box etiquette from watching Mom or figures out how to open the kitchen cupboard that holds catnip treats. During dog-drill exercises cats often begin to mimic the canines’ sit-stay routine because they want in on the fun–cats come by the term “copycat” quite honestly. Cats need an incentive to do the right thing–like limit countertop cruising.

Perhaps you wish to amaze doubting friends. High-energy felines find trouble when not given something to engage their busy brains, so some folks train Tabby out of self-defense to prevent feline marauders. But more than anything else, training and communicating with your cat enriches the bond you share, brings you closer together, and rewards you both immeasurably.

The trick to training Tabby lies in identifying natural behaviors and then explaining to her THAT’S what you want by paying the cat for performing.

kitten climbing ladder

Train Cats to Do What Comes Naturally

Anything Tabby does on her own becomes fair game to add to a “trick” repertoire. Make a list of the normal behaviors, as well as some of her odd foibles, to compile a trick list. Maybe your cat chases your feet–can you put that behavior on cue to make it into a trick? Or if your cat meows all the time, why not teach her to SPEAK on command?

Common behaviors include sit, come, and speak since all cats do one or more of these things in their everyday life. Depending on the cat you might also add sit-up/beg, wave (cats always reach out with a paw!), or even fetch. Siamese kitties seem most inclined to enjoy retrieve games. Maybe you could promote his jumping ability and train him to leap through the circle of your arms.

Once you’ve identified possible behaviors, watch for when the cat naturally performs them. For example, often you can predict that Tabby always runs to the door when you return from work, or races to the food bowl for dinner. These habits can be used to train a reliable “come.”

trick training cats

Cat Training Rewards: Payday!

Dogs often relish verbal praise and perform for that alone. While cats also appreciate praise, more tangible rewards such as petting, toys or treats get the message across much more effectively. Cats crave different things, so figure out what floats your cat’s boat and gets his purr a-rumbling. Here are some people foods that are safe for cats.

Toys and games often work well. Pheasant feathers seem irresistible, especially to kittens and can be used to lure a particular behavior by snaking along the ground or waving for an outstretched paw to snare. Once you’ve figured out Tabby’s favorite, reserve it for use only as a reward. Make her earn it before the games begin.

For food-motivated cats, treats work best for tempting and rewarding cats to perform a particular behavior. Offer something completely different than his usual diet that you reserve exclusively for training sessions. Commercial treats work well if the cat relishes them. Just break a single commercial cat treat into two or four pieces to make it last–you only need a nibble. If your cat usually eats dry kibble then choose tidbits of canned food for her treat reward.

Strong smelling treats work best. Offer something your cat loves–even people food such as meat baby food can work–since you only need a tiny taste. For instance, my cat Seren nearly does back-flips for a taste of cream cheese. A tiny smear on the end of my index finger provides her incentive to come when called, sit, sit up, and wave upon command.

Kitty Cues

Figure out a way to tell your cat you want to reward THAT (sit) behavior. One of the most effective ways involves using a clicker that makes a distinctive sound to mark a particular behavior. Learn how to clicker train here. You can also use your voice, but as we all know, cats sometimes learn to ignore our conversation. A clicker–or the click of a ballpoint, or snick of a stapler–provides a unique sound that teaches Tabby, “The click means I did something right.”

Clicker training works this way. You watch for Tabby to perform (on her own, at her leisure) one of the behaviors you’ve identified. Perhaps she’s walking across the living room, then stops at the window and sits–as her furry bottom hits the carpet, you CLICK! and then immediately produce her reward of choice (treat, toy, scritches).

She’s likely to get up and mew or solicit more treats, and you ignore her until/unless she again happens to sit CLICK! she gets another reward. Very often by the time the cat hears a third or fourth CLICK followed by a treat, she puts it together that if she sits–owner CLICKS and pays her for the behavior.

This first lesson may take the longest, but once Tabby figures out the CLICK communicates your approval, she’ll look for other ways to earn a reward and your positive attention. You can put clicker training, bribes, and luring to work to teach cats several tricks. Here are a few to get you started.

cat trainingTrain Cats to Come: Here Kitty Kitty Kitty…

Cats easily train themselves to come when called at dinner time. They associate the sound of kibble in the bowl, or the whirrr of the can opener and come running for this cue. Use that natural behavior to train Tabby.

Use the command “come!” each time you fill his bowl, and when he arrives, CLICK and then offer his dinner. Do this faithfully for a couple of weeks to associate the word COME with being fed and a bonus reward.

Next, load your pockets with his favorite treat or toy and give the “come!” command at another time, from a different place in the house. When he arrives, CLICK and give him his reward. Repeat the exercise for another two weeks.

Finally, for the next couple of weeks practice the “come!” at both mealtimes and at different times and places, and CLICK each time but only give him a treat every third or fourth time. This teaches Kitty that he’ll almost always get a treat when he comes–he never knows when for sure, so he’ll be more likely to respond every time on the chance he’ll get the reward.

Once your cat learns how to come when called avoid using this command for any negative reason. In other words, if you must clip claws, take her to the veterinarian, or chastise her, simply go collect the cat rather than ask her to come. Otherwise, you risk teaching Tabby that COME means she’ll have something nasty done to her person, and she’ll quickly un-learn the behavior.

Teach Cats to Sit

Use Tabby’s favorite treat or toy. Pheasant feathers work great for this. Rather than waiting for the cat to sit on her own, you can lure the behavior and then reward Tabby with the CLICK and treat.

With the cat standing before you hold the feather or treat directly over her head, and slowly move it backward. In order to follow the lure with her eyes and not fall over, Tabby must plant her tail.

As soon as touch down takes place, time your “sit!” command and CLICK to coincide with the action, then reward with the treat or access to the feather. Some cats, like my Seren, will learn to run to you and sit down just to see if they can get their own personal “treat machine” to pay up!

training cats

Training Cats to Beg

You can easily teach a “howdy” wave from the sitting position. Cats naturally reach out with paws to grab enticing objects, so use the feature lure or treat to tempt the cat to “wave” with one or the other paw. Most cats have a dominant (right paw, left paw) they’ll offer first. Remember to time your CLICK and treat appropriately to explain/communicate to the cat exactly what you’re looking for.

A “beg” position with both paws up comes more naturally to some cats than others. Much depends on Tabby’s body conformation, with overweight or out of shape cats more challenged. Cats who perform this behavior naturally may learn the trick readily simply by you holding the treat or feather toy slightly above her head while she’s in a seated position. CLICK and treat reward any attempt at first, even if at first she can’t keep her balance. With practice, she’ll improve, and do you both proud.

Learn more about how to clicker train cats and dogs on this page.

So now share your cats’ favorite tricks. Do your kitties come when called? Meow-speak on command? Walk nicely on a leash? Do tell!

YouTube Button

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Best Pet Door and Pet Gate Options: How to Train Pets to Use Baby GateAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] Dogs and cats naturally nose poke, paw, and sniff objects to explore and play with their world. Cats also…
  2. Kitten Litter Box Training: Learn How to Potty Train CatsAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] Cats are very smart. They usually teach US rather than the other way around. Here’s how to trick train…
  3. Potty Training Puppies? Here's How To House Train PuppiesAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] Oh, and you can also trick train cats! Here’s how. […]
  4. Dog Training & Cat Training: How to Clicker Train PetsAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] ← Previous Next → […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Categories:

Recent Posts

National Love Your Pet Day: 15 Ways How Pets Show Love

At my house, I see how pets show love every day. If you wonder, how do I make my cat love me, it’s easy! February 20 is National Love Your Pet Day, but Valentine’s Day comes in just a few days. At my house, pet love happens EVERY day. Whether you love your pet with special attention, treats and toys or lap snuggles, pet love has become a given in our pet-friendly society.

In mid-2020, we multiplied our pet-love quotient by welcoming Shadow-Pup into the house. He arrived at a time when we really had no plans for another pet and struggled with the reality of dealing with Bravo-Dawg-s cancer (sadly, he lost his battle, but his love lives on). And Karma-Kat welcomed the pup, too–but for Bravo, the added attention/distraction helped enormously as he went through scary treatment, losing a leg, dealing with pain, and more. So I’m adding another way pets show love–by showing up when you need them!

Valentine’s Day: Pet Danger Advice

I’m often interviewed by media about various cat behavior and dog training issues, and of course, Valentine’s pet dangers top the list this week. Pet hazards are common when our normal routine goes out the window, so pet parents are vigilant around the holidays. Refer to this post about Easter dangers for pets.  And don’t forget that pet safety issues for Christmas are similar to those for Valentine’s Day but it’s always good to refresh our watch list.

Spoil Your Cat: How to Show Cats You Love Them

Cats are great actors and try to convince pet parents they’re already purr-fectly healthy and happy. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s a good time to think “outside the litter box” and find special ways to love your cat.

Recently, I’ve received a boatload of emails with product suggestions for spoiling cats with healthy fun. So check out some of the offerings–and in the comments, add suggestions of your own! Then share the blog far and wide to spread the kitty love!

Pet Music Therapy? The Sound of Success!

Pet music therapy can help solve dog and cat behavior problems as well as offer physical therapeutic benefits. Our pets are attuned to sound and are incredibly sensitive to noises, including music. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, some pets with “stranger danger” issues are in for a rough ride. Pet music therapy can help. Read on for more tips.

Carbon Monoxide Danger for You and Your Pets

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas. It’s a natural by-product of fuel combustion present in car exhaust and improperly vented furnaces, space heaters, water heaters, fireplaces, and tobacco smoke. It can quickly kill people as well as their pets. Children and pets have died in as little as 15 minutes inside running cars while parents shoveled snow outside the vehicle, unaware of the blocked tailpipe.

Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself…and your pets.

UPDATED AGING CAT BOOK DISCOUNTED!

I’m delighted to announce the release of the 2024 edition of COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT. This book, when released, received multiple awards from the prestigious Cat Writer’s Association. I got the rights back after the first edition, published by New American Library/Penguin Books, and released an updated version first in 2010, and again in 2017. But the latest 2024 version offers the most comprehensive revisions and updated material.

Learn more–and how to get deep discounts on the Ebook, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

6 Easy Fresh Breath Tips & How to Brush Doggy & Kitty Teeth (Without Getting Bit!)

Do you brush dog teeth? How about brushing cat teeth? The AVMA sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month every February to help prevent pet dental problems.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3.

But it’s never too late (or too soon) to get your pets’ pearly whites checked out by your veterinarian. Often the doctor has some great tips for keeping cat teeth clean and dog breath at bay, including how to brush doggy teeth.

Does the thought of brushing dog teeth make you cringe, roll your eyes, whimper, slink away–and feel guilty? You’re not alone. But once that puppy-sweet breath morphs into curl-your-eyebrows stench, it’s long past the time to address that stink-icity.

Pet Dental Problems: 9 Dental Issues You Share With Your Cats and Dogs

Pet dental problems rate as important to cats and dogs as your own dental issues are for you. Could your dog’s breath melt your glasses? Does your cat’s smile look like five miles of bad road? Pet dental problems are surprisingly similar to their owners’ dental issues. You may wonder how much does teeth cleaning cost for dogs and cats? February is National Pet Dental Health Month and a good time to check out your pets’ pearly whites. You can even learn how to brush your pet’s teeth in this post.

I write about pet dental health every year. These days I pay closer attention to Shadow-Pup because, for some weird reason, he likes rocks. That is, he picks up rocks whenever we go outside, brings them in, and then wants to play with and chew them. Shadow-Pup also raids the fireplace for lava rock embers, to do the same–and the pup wants to chew sticks! Oy! They already have lots of “legal” and safe chews, but he wants to play keep-away with rocks–and of course, I fear a broken tooth, or a tummy full of blocked foreign objects, or choking or worse. Urk!

While some cats drool when happy during petting, drooling cats and dogs point to dental problems. Hopefully, you won’t have that issue. Here are common dental issues you share with your cats and dogs (hopefully NOT eating rocks!), as well as ways to avoid them.

Steve Dale EveryCat Health Foundation Communications Award Now Open!

Wyckoff, New Jersey – EveryCat Health Foundation announced that nominations are open for the Steve Dale EveryCat Health Foundation Communications Award.

The award, named in honor of long time EveryCat Board member Steve Dale, CABC, is presented annually, to recognize a person or group who utilizes various media outlets to educate and inform others about cat health and/or behavior for the purpose of promoting the human-cat bond, and the welfare of cats.

As a past recipient of the (then-named) Winn Feline Foundation Media Appreciation Award, this opportunity makes me PURR. We have so many worthy communicators who champion cats. Read more to learn how to nominate someone (or yourself!) but don’t delay: Deadline is end of February!

How to Choose the Best Herbal Medicine for Pets: What’s Safe, What’s Dangerous for Dogs and Cats

In today’s world of cutting-edge medicine, we consider herbs for pets and herbal medicine to be old-fashioned. But holistic veterinarians continue to use herbs for pets because many of these plants are the foundation of modern drugs and medications, but don’t cause the same side effects.

Chinese herbal medicine has regained popularity for both human and pet care treatments. I learned a lot about them while researching my book NEW CHOICES IN NATURAL HEALING FOR DOGS AND CATS. And when the vet diagnosed Bravo-Dawg with hemangiosarcoma, I learned about I’m-Yunity, a Chinese herbal medicine treatment shown helpful in veterinary studies of the herb. Here are some things you need to know about using herbs with pets.

Visit Amy's Website

Amy Shojai CACB is an award winning author.  You can find all her publications and book her to speak via her website. 

On Demand Writer Coaching

AmyShojai.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com http://amazon.com/.

Awards

Memberships