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Can Cats Be Trained Like Dogs? What You Need to Know!

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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Kittens are cute little bundles of curiosity that always want to be involved in everything going on around them. This pure and gentle inquisitiveness is exactly what makes kittens great candidates for obedience training! Getting your cat doing “dog” tricks isn’t as difficult as you might think, and you can probably get started right away! Here’s a straightforward guide to training your cat to do tricks like a dog!

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Is Training Your Cat Easy?

cat owner talking to his pet
Image Credit: Piqsels

Training your cat is definitely harder than training a dog. Cats like it when their people are happy, but they don’t have the same service-oriented personalities that we associate with dogs. They want you to be happy…just not enough to jump through hoops for it!

However, if you can figure out what motivates your cat, you can get them moving and performing for guests. In this way, training them is exactly like training a dog. There’s just a narrower scope of motivations that will be adequate to get your cat to do tricks.

How to Train Your Cat: A Step-By-Step Guide

1. Find Your Cat’s Motivators

Try to determine what makes your cat happiest. Are they a foodie (like most cats)? Do they love to play? Do they have a favorite toy? Any of these things can help you get your cat trained. They’ll be able to. A lot of cats are heavily food motivated (we know ours are!) and will happily start doing tricks when food is introduced as a reward.

grey cat looking at treat
Image Credit: FotoMirta, Shutterstock

2. Keep Training Sessions Short

Cats don’t have particularly good attention spans. Kittens especially can only stay focused for about five to ten minutes before they start to become distracted by anything else, really. So, keep training sessions short to give your cat a chance to recalibrate after the session.

Cat welcomes his owner at home
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

3. Complete Training Sessions on a High Note

It’s better to end your training sessions early than stretch them out to the point where your cat is no longer paying attention. End your session on a high note, even if it means the session is a little bit shorter than you’d wanted it to be. It will help your cat learn to associate training with good feelings and positive reinforcement.

calico cat having treats
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

4. Reinforce Training Frequently

The more frequently you train your cat, the more easily they’ll pick up the skills you’re trying to teach them. Doing short, frequent sessions will have more of an impact than longer, less frequent sessions. So, do more frequent sessions for five or ten minutes to help your cat learn the ropes.

woman resting with cat in sofa at home
Image Credit: Yuriy Seleznev, Shutterstock

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What Is Clicker Training?

Clicker training is often used with dogs to help keep their attention and reinforce behavioral modification. Clickers make a clicking sound when the button on them is pressed. When you click the clicker and then give your cat a treat, your cat learns to associate the sound of the clicker with a treat. Thus, you must be judicious with your clicks since you must always follow the click with a treat.

Clicker training is generally considered to be a dog training method but is usable with cats as well. Cats have been known to respond rather well to clicker training when it’s introduced to them.

man hand holding clicker
Image Credit: DenisNata, Shutterstock

Fun Tricks to Teach Your Cat

  • Sit: Teaching your cat to sit is relatively easy and should be one of the first tricks you teach to your cat. It’s a good litmus test to see if your cat is properly motivated by the rewards you’re using. Start by putting the treat in your fist. Let your cat sniff your fist then move the fist up over the snout until it’s directly above their head. Your cat’s eyes should follow the treat, and they’ll naturally sit down to look up. Click and reward.
  • Give Paw: Start by picking your cat’s paw up in your hand after they sit. Turn your hand so your cat’s paw sits in your palm. Hold this position for a moment, say “paw” and then reward your cat.
  • Spin: Teach your cat to spin by taking your finger and putting it in front of their nose. Move the finger around in a circle so your cat follows it. Say “spin” and reward your cat.
  • Touch: Put a treat in your palm and close your fist. Present your fist to your cat and when they bump their nose against the fist, turn your hand over and open your palm.
bengal cat gives high five paw to owner
Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

The Key to Successful Training

The key to training your cats is consistency. If you don’t train them consistently and often, they’ll forget the commands you’ve taught them, just as a human will forget information or skills they don’t use regularly.

Can You Teach an Old Cat New Tricks?

Kittens are the best candidates for training since they’re young and impressionable. However, you can train an older cat if you want to. It will just take more consistency and repetitions than it would for a young cat. They may also retain less of the information and forget commands more easily when they aren’t regularly reinforced.

Training an older cat is the same as training a kitten. You’ll need to find what motivates them and use that to help your cat learn what you’re trying to teach them.

cat playing with owner
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Training your kitten can be a fun way to bond with your kitten. There are a variety of tricks you can teach to your kitten that will impress even the most cold-hearted members of your family. Anything a dog can do, a cat can do with attitude. So, don’t lose heart if your cat seems uninterested at first. Experiment with different motivators to help your cat get excited for learning!


Featured Image Credit: Josep Suria, Shutterstock

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