Clicker Training Your Cat - What It's All About
Clicker training has gained in popularity for dogs in recent years but people are beginning to realize it's also one of the most effective ways to train a cat, too. Cat's are smart and can easily create a connection between the command and the sound of a click, especially when they're rewarded with a tasty treat afterwards. With regular practice and consistent positive reinforcement of the desired command or behavior, you will be able to train and bond with your furry friend in no time at all. Here is how you can get started.
Why Train Your Cat?
Clicker training and training in general for your cat helps them feel secure and strengthens the bond the two of you share. This is because you're spending more time together in an engaging and rewarding way. Providing positive reinforcement and highlighting what they're doing right rather than what they're doing wrong makes a big difference. This is the best practice for getting repeat good behavior and overall strong and respectable relationship with your cat. Clicking especially provides a great outlet for mental stimulation which many cats do not get on a daily basis, especially indoor only cats.
Why Try Out The Clicker Method?
By using a clicker, pet parents are gifted a way to truly communicate with their feline companions. Instead of verbally encouraging or scolding your cat which your cat normally interprets as simple general attention and can't discern whether it's good or bad anyway, using a clicker indicates to your cat which of their actions will be rewarded and learn to repeat them.
Clickers have proven to be one of the most effective training devices for pets. The precise sound of the click is processed by pets more quickly than spoken word and the click is always consistent so it's easy for them to understand. Cats especially can be known to tune us humans out so the click can more effective in capturing their attention.
When Can I Start Clicker Training My Cat? What Age Is Best?
Traditionally kittens are easier to train with clickers, and train in general because they are a completely clean slate. Kittens are abuzz with energy and are usually eager to participate in training sessions. Older cats can be more finicky but can also be clicker trained, you may just have to shorten the sessions and put a higher value on the rewards so it's really worth their while.
Older cats might have some pretty built-in bad habits that can block the motivation needed to train them, even with a clicker so you want to slip it in when you're catching good behavior. This might mean having the clicker handy on you whenever you're at home and being ready with treats when you see your cat is doing something you like without being prompted.
What Are The Best Treats For Clicker Training?
We suggest cutting up treats into small pieces to prevent your cat getting full on them or over-feeding while you're training or rewarding positive behavior. We love grain-free, all-natural moist treats, they're perfect for training sessions. Work with what your pet prefers so if your cat is more of a kibble fan, use that. You can also clicker train during feeding times, especially when training cats that have allergies or food sensitivities.
What Commands Should I Start With For My Cat?
A lot of owners are interested in training their pets so they become more comfortable with designated spaces, learn a routine for traveling, and overall are more well behaved. Doing a combination of training tactics is usually the best way to approaching training. We recommend using 'target training' which consists of using a target stick - which you cake by using a wooden dowel with a small ball glued or attached to the end. The cat is taught to touch the end of the target stick with their nose.
You can begin doing this by presenting the target directly in front of the cat's nose. They'll likely learn forward to give it a sniff, when they do that you can click your clicker, remove the target behind your back and give them a reward. This is the first step in establishing what the clicker means and does. Keep doing this until your cat has made the connection and understands that touching the target earns a click and reward. Once the connection is made, you would slowly start moving the target further away from the cat, so they have to move to touch it.
Now that they're fully associated with the target, the click, and the treat you can begin working in other commands. Things such as 'sit', 'jump' 'come', etc. For 'sit', we start with the target near the cat's nose and then slowly lifting it up over their head, forcing them to tilt the top of their head backwards. This will usually cause them to sit, once they sit you can click and reward. Depending on the cat, it often takes between five and 20 repetitions for them to make the connection.
Is It Better To Focus On One Command At A Time?
We suggest working on a few tricks and commands at a time to keep both you and your keep entertained but again, this really depends on the cat and their capacity to retain actions and information. Teaching too many can be confusing, so we recommend sticking with two or three at a time. This gives variety to both owner and cat as well as helps prevent frustration on a certain trick if it isn’t going well.