The classic view of cats is that they’re fiercely independent, and do what they want, when they want. Dog training? Why of course, but talk about training cats and people tend to look at you like you’re mad. Training cats is possible however; you just need patience and the right kind of motivation. Unlike a dog, cats won’t work simply for praise, you’ll need to be more cunning than that, so follow these steps to clicker training for cats and you’ll soon have your cat trained to perfection.
What is Clicker Training for Cats?
Clicker training is a fun and easy form of positive reinforcement using a plastic ‘clicker’ with a metal piece inside that makes a ‘clicking’ noise when pressed. You reward positive behaviour with a click followed by a treat, and your cat will soon come to realise that good behaviour equals a click equals a treat.
How to Clicker Train Your Cat
- Charge the clicker. Clicker training won’t work unless your cat associates the noise of the clicker with a tasty treat, so start off with a click followed by his favourite treat, and repeat as necessary! Your cat might get the connection straight away, but some cats take longer, so be patient and continue with this process until he associates the click with the treat.
- Choose the behaviour. You’ll need to pick something that your cat does often and something that you want to encourage, such as lying down or jumping on your lap. Whenever he does this, follow the click and treat process, and it shouldn’t take him too long to work out that every time he demonstrates this behaviour he’ll be rewarded with a tasty treat.
- Add a verbal cue. If you can encourage a behaviour by using a word or sound as well as a click, then great. Your cat may be clever enough to start reacting to what you say, but if he isn’t, never mind, you’ll still love him anyway!
Important Points about Clicker Training Cats
- Don’t try clicker training when your cat has just eaten, as he’s less likely to be motivated by a treat.
- Cats get bored easily, so don’t plan an hour long training session or you’ll get nowhere. Ten to fifteen minutes at a time is perfect.
- Don’t shout at your cat or ‘punish’ him if he gets it wrong, you should click and treat the good behaviour, but ignore any bad behaviour.
- Don’t click after the behaviour, as your cat won’t get the connection. The click has to occur during the desired behaviour to be most effective.
- Use clicks one at a time per behaviour, multiple clicks will only confuse your cat.
- Start small – reward the steps towards the ultimate behaviour you are trying to encourage. For example, if you’re training your cat to use his scratching post, start when he walks past it, then when he sniffs it, and work up to when he actually uses it.
You can use clicker training for anything you want to encourage your cat to do, like getting into his carrier for a trip to the vet, using his scratching post instead of your carpeted stairs, and learning to walk on a leash. Alternatively, you could use clicker training simply to encourage him to do those cute little things that you love!
Have you tried clicker training your cats? What are your experiences or tips for success?
Image: Kendra K via Flickr