Although many may believe the opposite, cats can actually be trained (even if they may not be as sensitive to treats as dogs..)! This is not only fun for new cat owners, it also strengthens the connection between you and your beloved friend. Additionally, it helps kittens to (further) develop their body and mind! Read here how it all works and become a bit of a trainer yourself:
Dogs versus cats
To train your kitten, you must first understand this perfect little creature. Contrary to dogs, cats are evolved as independent creatures. Dogs were trained for centuries to assist humans and to keep close communications. While cats even have a longer history in providing services for pest control, they used to manage it on their own. This could explain why cats aren’t craving for attention all the time.
Most training (of humans, dogs, cats and even fleas) is eventually related to operant conditioning. It generally comes to:
- Behavior occurs
- Consequence or response is given:
– Positive response to increase this behavior (reward).
– Negative response to decrease this behavior (punishment).
We ought to try to minimize negative responses, as you easily become “the punisher” in the eyes of the cat. Please note that if you want to punish certain behavior, you’ll have to do this instantly.
Bribing with food
As with dogs, the best way to “conditioning” your cat is the use of food. Whereas dogs will start foaming from virtually anything, cats tend to be picky. Start with the treat your cat goes crazy for. Many pet brands have found good treats that work on most cats, but chicken, tuna and other fresh foods can also do the job. Please, do not let your cat eat vegetables and watch out with the number of treats as we don’t want your cat to become obese!
Basic training principle
Now we can start with the training of your kitty. It does not really matter what you start with, although it could be wise to wait with the backflips.. The model is simple:
Present the treat to the cat. Make sure that the cat is able to smell it, as cats don’t have great visual abilities for still and close objects.
Stimulate the desired behavior by firstly moving the treat in the correct direction, and then the cat. The desired outcome could be anything, from being at a specific spot in the house to standing up on two legs.
Reward the cat by giving him the treat. Some cats may find it difficult to eat from your hand (often due to the limited visual abilities mentioned above). You could therefore also toss the treat on the floor as they have excellent vision for moving objects!
To illustrate the training, let us use something simple like sitting down for example:
Present the special treat to the cat. Hold it in front the nose until they recognize the taste, now you have their attention!
Move the treat slowly over her head and try to let the cat keep the focus on the treat. By using this movement, the cat’s back will often automatically arch, as they will follow it with their nose.
If your cat sits down, praise here and give the treat. Praising will also help in later training as the cat will recognize the tone and associates this with the reward! Some cats will not sit down immediately. In this case, give the reward anyway and repeat the behavior several times. Give him/her the treat every time her butt is closer to the floor.
Opportunities are limitless
By using the basic training principle, you can teach your cat virtually anything. From elementary things like training your kitten to use the litter box to using a human toilet and flush. We would love to see what your cat could do!
Just like fathers can be very convinced of their kid’s football career, you may share these ambitions with your furry spouse. Perhaps your cat can perform the Iron Lotus Jump on ice or play Super Mario medley blindfolded on the piano. During the recording of the sweetpea Cat Dolls music video “Do You Want My Purr Purr” we had high expectations for our (now famous) felines. However, cats will be cats and even long training may not lead to the desired result. For a cat to perform unremitting and on demand you need patience, love and dedication. Additionally, it can be fun too! Check out the official making-of of the sweetpea Cat Dolls, just to see how much fun we had.