How to Clicker Train a Cat
My two cats, Mufasa and Bilbo, sometimes get a little competitive, even though they're friends. This makes clicker training perfect for them. Clicker training involves teaching a cat new tricks by making a clicking noise and giving a treat whenever he does a desired action. When I got started, I had no idea how much they'd enjoy training, or how much it would deepen my bond with them.
When Bilbo was a little kitten, he loved carrying things around in his mouth. One day, I threw a crumpled piece of paper on the floor, and he promptly picked it up in his mouth and dropped it in a nearby cardboard box! I praised and petted him and then threw another paper on the floor. He dropped it in the box again! We did this over and over. For a brief moment, I thought I'd adopted a cat who would throw my trash away for me. That didn't happen, but the interaction did show me he could be trained.
Once I started training Bilbo, his "brother," Mufasa, had to be trained, too. In fact, these two were so competitive that they picked up on clicker training really quickly. Both cats love to high-five my hand when I hold it over their heads. They'll follow me anywhere around the house for an elusive treat. I've even taught them to climb cat trees and run through tunnels on command. Sometimes they get so competitive that they'll play a game of "race" when I make a clicking sound to see who can get to me first.
One of my crowning achievements in training, though, was when I taught Bilbo to overcome one of his fears. We have a set of stools that turn at the top. Bilbo would jump on chairs on command, but he would never get near those stools. So I decided I'd challenge his comfort zone and try to teach him to jump on one. Slowly, I lured him closer to the stool with a click and a treat. Once he was near the stool, I started luring him to perch up on his back feet and touch the stool with his paw. Using clicker training and treats each step of the way (and a lot of patience), I eventually got him to jump on the stool. Then we repeated the trick over and over until he got used to it.
Now, not only does Bilbo jump on the stool on command, but he also just jumps on the stool for fun. He sometimes even sleeps up there! Whenever I see him do that, I feel happy because I know that I helped him overcome one of his fears.
Clicker training has played a big role in deepening the bonds that I have with Bilbo and Mufasa. Now they follow me around the house a lot more because they know something fun could happen while I'm around. They've grown personally, too. Bilbo was shyer than Mufasa, and he's overcoming a lot of that. In the process of training, they've also become better friends. My only issue now is deciding what trick I'm going to do next! I might start teaching them to jump through hoops.
If you want to train your cats, make sure you have a good treat as a reward, like Meow Mix Irresistibles®. They'll learn even faster with such a tasty motivator!
Photo Credits #1 and #2: Stephanie Dwilson
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