People who think you can't train a cat haven't tried hard enough! Whether it’s a new kitten or an older cat that you’re introducing into your household, training should begin as soon as you bring your feline friend home.
Here are our top tips:
Cats like company
- they are social creatures and need companionship. Pick your kitten up from early on to help him understand that he is safe in your arms. Cats also need to feel comfortable with other cats, so the earlier you can begin socialising your cat with others the better. Kittens often like a playmate and two kittens together are usually good for each other
Provide natural stimulation
such as a scratching post - this is a normal behaviour used for communication. Place it where the cat will use it, usually a prominent area or in front of where the cat has already started to scratch (such as the corner of the couch!)
– Cats need environmental enrichment, toys of different shapes, sizes, colours, textures, on a string, on a pole etc. Make the toys exciting – lay a cardboard box on its side & hang some toys from the roof of it, this becomes a kitty cave of entertainment. Build tunnels & paths & have multi-level areas for the cats to play on they will have hours of fun being up high & on top of the world.
- cats are intelligent and trainable animals - keep training sessions to less than 2–3 minutes and use rewards such as praise and food such as cooked chicken or small amounts of butter or vegemite on your finger or a spoon. Train your cat to come when he's called or sit for a treat.
How to train a cat
Cats, like dogs, are motivated to do things in life that benefit them. Seeking tasty morsels of food or a cat game with a favourite toy are favourite activities. Usually it is the cat who demands these from their owners. So let’s turn it around. Use these motivators to your advantage.
The recall command
When your cat demands food, or preferably just before she is likely to become hungry, call her to you. Say her name and issue a command – “Tiger, Come”. If you are also shaking the biscuits or opening the can of cat food, your cat is very likely to respond. Extend the recall to other situations, such as when you pick up their favourite toy. Before long, if your cat is consistently rewarded when she comes to you, she will come every time you call.
Ringing the bell
Outdoor cats can be frustrating or even destructive in their efforts to come back inside. Try suspending a small but loud bell on a string at your cat's eye level. Ignore the meowing, scratching and other efforts to get your attention. Eventually, your cat will touch that bell and make it ring, at which point you reward her by opening the door. If this is repeated several times, your cat will soon learn to ring the bell deliberately.
The sit and Hi 5 commands
All cats sit, so teaching this is easy. As your cat sits, say “Sit”, then praise her, pat her or give her a treat. Also introduce a hand signal, such as your hand held vertically in a stop sign, to further help your cat learn.
You can quickly extend this training to have your cat join in a ‘Hi 5’ with you, where she raises a paw to your hand. First, encourage any tiny movements of her paw by giving a cat a treat each time her paw moves off the ground. Then, with the treat wrapped in your fist, wait for her to use her paw to try to grab it, then give her treat as her reward. Gradually lift your hand higher and when your cat touches your hand with her paw, reward her.
The rules of training
Work with cat behaviours that come naturally, to make it easy for them to obey. Then progress to more difficult commands. Rewards are the key to motivating your cat. If you are using food and your cat is not responding, she may not be hungry enough. Try a training session before a meal. (But don’t 'starve' your cat to make them eager to learn, as a hungry cat will quickly become an annoyed one.)
With time, you can lessen the use of treats. Your praise or a pat may be a good enough reward on occasion.
Eliminate any distracting noise from the TV or stereo during training time, as it will make the process almost impossible. Keep training sessions short, ending them before your cat gets bored or tired. Always finish a training session on a positive note and remember that, just like us, sometimes cats are not in the mood.
If possible, train your cat regularly, preferably every day. Training your cat once a month won't get the results you want.