Clicker Training for Cats 101
Dogs aren't the only pets that can be taught adorable tricks. Cats can be trained to come when you call, high-five and even go through hoops. You'll just need to use a special strategy called clicker training that communicates in your cat's language. Cheryl Kolus trains about a dozen shelter cats every other week through a non-profit organization called the Clicker Learning Institute for Cats and Kittens, or CLICK. Here, she shares why clicker training works and how to get started.
All About the Click
A clicker is a small device that emits a loud click when you push the button. You can also make a clicking noise with your tongue to train your kitty.
The reason cats can be difficult to train is their attention tends to wander at the smallest distraction. The clicker is a fast and easy way to get that attention back. It also communicates a job well done. While your cat does a desired action, just click and give a treat (we recommend Meow Mix Irresistibles® Crunchy with Salmon & Ocean Whitefish treats for delicious motivation). It's as simple as that.
As your cat gets confident with a trick, you'll add a command. Over time, you can fade out the click-and-treat part completely.
"If you've been asking a cat to sit for 10 years, you don't have to click and treat every time," Kolus says. "It's always good to reward them in some way, whether it's praise or petting."
Kolus recommends starting with a trick called targeting, since it comes easily to most kitties.
Targeting teaches your cat to touch his nose to an object, like a chopstick or pen. This is easy for cats to learn because they naturally sniff objects when they're curious. You're rewarding an action he would have done anyway.
If you click near the chopstick, your cat will probably come and sniff at it. She'll want to investigate. Click and treat her for coming. Once she touches her nose to the target, click again and deliver a single treat. After a few training sessions, your cat will naturally learn to approach the target when she sees it.
Clicker Training Techniques
After this, you can teach other tricks like spinning in a circle or sitting on a mat using different techniques, like luring and shaping. To lure your cat to turn in a circle, hold out a treat and then click and treat as your cat follows it around.
You can also "shape" your cat's behavior by clicking and treating each step in a series of actions. Kolus explains that if you're teaching your cat to sit on a mat, you might first click-and-treat when she looks at the mat, then when she puts a paw on the mat, and, finally, when she's sitting on the mat with all four paws.
There are all sorts of tricks you can teach your cat, from high-fives to jumping over a target. As you and your cat learn these together, your bond can grow.
Training is a great way to keep your cat active while you're together. You'll also find great ideas for keeping kitty entertained while you're away right here on The Noseprint™.
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