Clicker training is is a great way to teach your cat some tricks that will impress your friends. You can train your cat to come when she’s called, get into her cat carrier on demand, high five, sit, fetch, and many other fun and useful tricks. You will need quite a lot of patience to begin with, but once your cat gets the hang of the training process you will be well on your way to having a cat fit for the circus.
A tri colour cat sitting on a windowsill looking outside
To ensure you and your cat get the most out of the training sessions you need to find a place that is quiet and distraction free. You should clear out any toys she might get distracted by and try to train her when everyone is out of the house and it's quiet. You will also need to do your training sessions when your cat is a bit hungry, an hour before she is due to be fed is usually perfect. It is best to keep your training sessions short to avoid both you and your cat getting frustrated. Five minute sessions are a good length.
Step 1 - Finding Her Favourite Treat
For your cat to be willing to do anything, she needs to be getting something out of it. Unlike dogs cats don’t see petting as good enough reward for performing tricks. You will need to have her favourite treat handy. This can be anything from cat kibble treats to tuna; whatever interests your cat most. Make sure that the treats are pea sized treats, so if you are using larger food items be sure to chop them up.
Step 2 - Associating The Click With The Treat
The first step in clicker training is associating the clicking noise with receiving a treat. To begin with, start by clicking the clicker whilst giving her a treat. This will start the association process. Your cat will begin to understand that every time she hears a click she will receive a treat. You need to repeat this process several times, making sure you wait for her to finish the treat before starting again.
- If your cat is losing interest very quickly you need to find her a tastier treat. It is best not to talk during this process, so your cat only associates the click sound with the treat and doesn’t get confused.
Step 3 - Strengthening The Association
You will now ask your cat to perform for the treat. Don’t worry though, she won’t really know that she is performing and you aren’t asking for anything difficult yet. This time instead of giving her the treat, when you click you will toss the treat a metre away from her so she has to take a couple of steps to get the treat.
Step 4 - Introducing A Target
A target is usually a stick with a ball on the end of it. You can make a target by attaching a pingpong ball to a stick. Hold out the target to your cat, click when she interacts with the target. This interaction can be anything from her sniffing the target to pawing at the target. Remember to always give her a treat once you have clicked. As you give her the treat make sure to hide the target behind your back as you don’t want her interacting with the target when you aren’t ready to click and give her a treat. Repeat this step several times until she understands that she has to interact with the target to receive a treat.
Step 5 - Using The Target
Now you can begin to train your cat to do more complex things with the target. If your cat just touches the target with her nose, now wait for her to paw at the target or interact in a different way. When she does, click and reward her with a treat. Step by step you can get your cat to do things like jump up to reach door handles, and open doors or to come when you call her.
Training Your Cat To Sit
Training your cat to sit is quite a simple task. Hold the treat up above her and move it backwards until she sits whilst using the verbal cue “sit”. When she sits, click and give her the treat. Keep repeating this to reinforce the association between the verbal cue, the click and the treat. Do not reward any behaviour performed without the verbal cue.
- Keep your training sessions short.
- Before you begin each training session, reinforce the clicker treat association a couple of times to refresh your cats memory.
- Be patient. You may need to use progressive steps in order to get your cat to perform the desired trick. After a while you won’t have to give your cat a treat everytime you click, however every so often you do need to reward her, so she doesn’t forget the association.
- You can click and reward good behaviour to encourage your cat to behave. For example if you are having toileting issues when your cat uses her litter tray you can click and reward. When she doesn’t use her litter tray you do not click and reward. She will soon realise that using her litter tray is the correct behaviour.