Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > How to Teach a Cat to Fetch: 7 Tips & Tricks

How to Teach a Cat to Fetch: 7 Tips & Tricks

cat playing fetch

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

So, you want to teach your cat to fetch. It’s an entertaining thought and a fun game to play with your kitty. But the looming question is: can you train your cat to do anything?

Here’s the good news: training your cat is easier than you think.

People don’t worry about training their cats because they believe cats are too independent and full of free will. Cats are indeed different from dogs in many ways, but teaching them doesn’t have to be.

The same basic training principle remains true for cats and dogs (and any animal, really). If the animal likes the outcome, the animal will repeat the behavior.

So, to teach your cat to fetch, you must make the learning process enjoyable. You have to give your cat something to work toward. In this post, we’re showing you exactly how to do it.


Consider Using a Clicker

There are a couple of ways to train your cat to fetch. Both methods work well. However, if you want the process to move faster, consider using a clicker.

A clicker is a small plastic box with a metal tongue that “clicks” when you press down on the button. The noise signals to your cat when it’s done something right, making it a highly effective positive reinforcement tool.

For clicker training to be effective, you have to immediately reward your cat after clicking. Otherwise, your cat won’t associate the click with something positive, and you won’t get anywhere with training.

Again, you don’t have to use a clicker if you don’t want to. You can use other tools like a bell, or simply making a clicking noise with your tongue works, too. Whichever method you choose, be consistent and patient.

man hand holding clicker
Image Credit: DenisNata, Shutterstock


How to Teach a Cat to Fetch in 7 Steps

Teaching your cat to fetch can be done in seven simple steps. These steps involve using a clicker. If you don’t have one, just offer a treat instead. Remember, you can always click using your tongue if you want.

Some cats may need more time than others, so don’t be discouraged if your cat doesn’t catch on immediately. Wait until your cat has mastered step one, then move on to step two, and so on.

1. Choose a High-Value Treat

The first step is to select a tempting treat your cat normally doesn’t receive. If the treat isn’t motivating enough, your cat won’t want to work toward the reward, so ensure you choose something your kitty can’t refuse.

siamese cat sniffing a treat
Image By: Lemalisa, Shutterstock

2. Choose a Favorite Toy

The toy you choose also matters. You’ll have to consider your cat’s preferences and choose a toy your cat loves playing with. If unsure of what to select, try a catnip toy or crinkle balls to get started. The toy’s texture is important, and your cat may refuse a toy for this reason. Keep trying until you find the perfect toy.

3. Getting Used to the Toy

Step three is about getting used to the toy. You want your cat to know that the ball is the target. Hold the toy in front of your cat’s face and let your cat sniff it. When your cat sniffs the toy, click and reward it with a treat.

If you don’t have a clicker, simply offer a treat.

Domestic Medium Hair Cat Playin WIth Toy_Cavan Images_Shutterstock
Image by: Cavan Images, Shutterstock

4. Open Mouth Training

Step four is about mouth-to-toy contact. Your cat doesn’t need to pick the toy up. It only needs to put its mouth on it. Ideally, you’re still holding the ball in your hand to encourage the behavior.

Your cat will notice that it doesn’t receive a treat when it sniffs the toy and will try something different to get the reward. When your cat bites into the toy, click and reward (or just offer a treat).

5. Touch the Toy From the Ground

Your cat doesn’t have to pick the toy up just yet. Instead, your cat should learn to touch the toy from the ground with a closed or open mouth. When your cat does this, click and reward. Move the toy or ball around until your cat masters this step. You may have to stay on this step for a while.

cat playing with ball
Image by: Natalya On, Shutterstock

6. Pick Up the Ball

Now it’s time to pick up the ball from the ground. Click and reward when your cat opens her mouth to bite down on the toy (your cat may already be doing this). Then, start clicking and rewarding as it tries to pick the toy up. Eventually, you’ll reward toward the end of the pick-up, so your cat learns that picking up the toy is the desired behavior.

7. Fetch

Place the ball away from you and have your cat pick it up and bring it to you. Click and reward when it does.

cat fetching a ball
Image by: Life is a Dream, Shutterstock


The 5 Tips for Better Training Sessions

  • Don’t Train After Mealtime: Wait until your cat is hungry to start training. Your cat will want the treats even more, making training more effective.
  • Work On One Thing at a Time: Stay on one step and move on to the next only when your cat has mastered the previous step.
  • Be Consistent: Cats like structure and respond better to consistency when introducing something new.
  • Keep the Training Sessions Short: Your cat will get bored if the sessions are too long and may not want to train in the future. Treats will also lose their luster if your cat gets bored. Keep training sessions no longer than 10 minutes.
  • Don’t Forget to Click: If you’re using a clicker, remember to actually click it so your cat understands what the click means.


Final Thoughts

Cats may be independent, but that doesn’t mean they’re untrainable. Your cat will learn the desired behavior if you’re consistent with your methods. You just have to take it one step at a time. Using a clicker is best, but don’t hold off on training if you don’t have one.

Soon, you’ll be playing fetch with your cat. Everyone who sees you playing fetch with your cat will also wish their cats played fetch. And you’ll have to show them that it’s easier than they think.

Featured Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

Spoiler title
Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets