How to Train a Cat
At Purina, we believe that cats are capable of a lot more than we think. Many people believe that cats are social or can’t be trained, however the truth is quite the opposite. In reality, cat training can give your cat the mental stimulation and activity they need. Read on to learn how to train a cat and unlock their true potential.
Cat training methods
Most cats will respond to food rewards, which are a type of positive reinforcement. Using soft moist cat food or dry food as a treat can lessen the chance of disturbing a properly balanced diet. Follow these cat training methods to get started:
Reward with food and verbal praise: If your cat performs the action you had asked of her, take time to reward her with a treat or food along with verbal praise.
Work with one command at a time: You are more likely to have success if you take your training slow and make sure your cat understands what you are asking of her.
Being consistent is key: As with any kind of training, you need to be consistent with your cat and work at her own speed.
Reward enthusiastically: Make sure to reward your cat at even the slightest hint that she understands the behaviour that you are trying to teach.
Some veterinarians and behaviourists recommend clicker training for cats. Using a small “clicker” device, which you click audibly when your cat performs a task, your cat can learn quite a few commands. Read on to learn how to train a cat with clicker training:
Associate the clicker with something positive. Get your cat’s attention, click the device, and then reward your cat with a small piece of food or a treat.
Any time your cat demonstrates the desired behaviour, click the clicker while the behaviour is occurring.
Make sure to click once for each time the cat is successful. Too much clicking can confuse your cat.
Over time, reduce the amount of food or treats being used until just the sound of the clicker will be enough to act as a reward
Come when called
Call your cat’s name followed by the command “come.” When she comes, praise her excitedly and give her a treat or use your clicker. Eventually, your cat will associate the food, treat, or clicker with the command, and she’ll readily come when called.
Walk on a leash
Yes, you can train your cat to walk on a leash! This can open a window to a whole new world for your cat. Leash walking is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your cat and allow her to explore the outdoors safely. Here’s how to get started:
Get your cat used to the harness she’ll have to wear
First, put the harness somewhere where your cat can see and inspect it and leave it there for a few days. Next, put the harness on your cat just before feeding time, so that she associates something positive with the harness. You can also use a treat, rather than regular mealtimes, for this step.
When she's comfortable with the harness, attach the leash, but don't use it for anything yet. Just allow the cat to see and experience the weight of the leash while you walk behind her, holding it loosely, for short periods.
When your cat is comfortable with the leash, set her down and walk to the end of the leash
If she follows you, praise and reward her, using the clicker if desired. If she doesn't follow you, pull very gently on the leash and wait until your cat takes a few steps toward you. When she does, praise and reward her. Be patient - it may take a while for the cat to come toward you.
Keep repeating this process, and reward your cat with a piece of food (and a click, if you're using a clicker) when she moves forward with you.
You may need to repeat these steps a few times before your cat understands what you want her to do. When she’s comfortable with the process, and walks with you at a normal pace, try taking her outside. Once outside, she’ll be very distracted by her new environment, and could be frightened. Make sure to start in a quiet secluded area and allow her to look around and explore before trying to go for a walk.
Your cat may never walk as a dog does, heeling and keeping pace, but rather may always want to explore, sniff, and wander a little as you go along. Take things slowly, and she may discover that walking on leash is her new favourite activity.