Many people are doubtful as to whether or not you can really train a cat to do tricks like those that dogs do. In fact, cats are very intelligent and respond well to positive training methods.
One of the most successful methods of training cats is clicker training. It relies on the use of food and pats to reward your cat for doing the right thing. Rewarding a behavior increases the likelihood it will happen again, so in this way, you can teach your cat what you want it to do.
Clicker training, and in fact most positive training methods, use a food reward during training. Cats are much more fussy than dogs and it can be hard to find a treat that they find worth working for. Some suggestions include little pieces of raw meat, cooked chicken, or small fish treats.
To start clicker training your cat, sit with your cat and click, then immediately follow with a treat. Repeat that several times, and it won't be long before your cat understands that a click means something yummy is coming. Two or three five minute sessions a day is better than one twenty minute session - cats don't always have a long attention span especially if something else catches their eye.
If your cat doesn't find food particularly rewarding, you can use toys. A little laser is popular with cats. So, in this instance, you can click, then point the laser and allow him to chase it. Again, he'll soon learn that a click means he can have a game.
You know your cat understands the click when you click and his ears prick up. You can then start to use this training method.
When your cat does something you like, click and treat. If you're using food, you can use a treat to lure him into position, and then click. For example, if you want your cat to lie in his bed, tempt him into bed with a treat, and then click. Repeat this several times, and it won't be long before he's voluntarily going to his bed, hoping to hear the click.
Clicker training your cat is so useful because you can pinpoint the exact behavior you are rewarding. That makes it easier for your cat to understand what you are asking of it, and he's much more likely to repeat the behavior you are after.
The best part of clicker training is that you can't really get it wrong. If you click at the wrong time, the worst you can do is give your cat a free treat.
Cats are wonderful companions, and enrich our lives in so many ways. How much how much closer can our relationship be, if we can teach them tricks, and share a fun time together.
Article courtesy Dr Rosie Brown BVSc (Hons)
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