Training cats has long been considered nearly impossible by many owners. Unlike dogs, cats are independent spirits who have a reputation for being aloof and stubborn. However, cat training is very possible with the proper techniques! With time, effort, and most importantly patience, you can teach your furry feline friend basic commands and behaviors to become a polite and pleasant household companion.
In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through everything you need to know about cat training. You’ll learn the benefits of training, step-by-step instructions, tips for success, how to stop unwanted behaviors, and much more. If you want to boost the bond with your cat and teach them good manners, then follow along!
Why Bother Training Your Cat?
You may be wondering if training is really necessary for cats. After all, they are known for their independent, free-spirited nature. Here are some of the top reasons to make the effort to train your cat:
1. Deepens the Bond Between You and Your Cat
One of the best aspects of training is that it brings you and your cat closer together. As you consistently interact during training sessions, a strong sense of trust and rapport develops between you and your cat. You become your cat’s trusted teacher, guide, and best buddy. Who doesn’t want a closer friendship with their fur baby?
2. Provides Crucial Mental Stimulation
Between naps and meals, the average house cat has a lot of idle time on their paws. Without sufficient mental stimulation and activity, your cat can easily become bored. A bored cat may act out with problematic behaviors like clawing furniture, begging for food, or waking you up in the middle of the night. Training gives your cat’s brain a vigorous workout and provides an outlet for their mental and physical energy. A stimulated cat is a happy, well-behaved cat.
3. Teaches Manners and Boundaries
Proper training can help your cat learn basic house rules and manners. For example, you can teach your cat not to claw the couch or jump on the kitchen counters. With training, you set clear boundaries and communicate which behaviors are appropriate in your home. This allows for a more pleasant and harmonious coexistence.
4. Enhances Communication Between You and Your Cat
As you work together on training activities, your cat will better recognize and understand your verbal commands, signals, and body language. For example, you can teach your cat to come, sit, or lie down on cue. This two-way communication strengthens your bond and facilitates mutual understanding.
5. Provides Physical Exercise
Regular training sessions provide your cat with much-needed exercise, especially for indoor kitties. All those sits, stays, and comes will get your cat moving! Just a few 5-10 minute sessions spread throughout the day will keep your feline fit and healthy. Exercising your cat’s mind and body is a win-win when training.
6. Improves Your Cat’s Safety
With training, you can teach your cat key skills for safety. For example, you can train your cat to come when called. This can prevent dangerous situations like your cat escaping outdoors or getting lost. Training allows you to reliably control your cat for their own protection.
Clearly, investing time in training your cat comes with numerous benefits for both you and your feline friend! Now let’s go over how to train a cat step-by-step:
Step-by-Step Guide to Training Your Cat
Follow this complete step-by-step guide for successfully training your cat:
Step 1: Get to Know Your Cat’s Unique Personality
Every cat has their own distinct personality, learning style, and motivations. Take some time to observe your individual cat before training so you can tailor your approach. For example, timid cats need more patience, positive reinforcement, and coaxing. Bolder cats may need more structure and boundaries during training. Adapt your training methods to what makes your unique cat tick.
Step 2: Set Up a Training Area
Pick a quiet, low-traffic room in your home with minimal distractions to conduct your training sessions. The training area should have all of your cat’s necessities nearby like food, water, litterbox, scratching posts, bed, and toys. This comfortable and enriched area helps your cat feel at ease during training sessions.
Step 3: Use Reward-Based Training
Cats respond extremely well to positive reinforcement and rewards-based training. Use small tasty treats, vocal praise, petting, catnip, or play as rewards when your cat demonstrates the behavior you want to encourage. Always immediately reward desired behaviors. Completely ignore unwanted behaviors – don’t scold or punish your cat during training as this will backfire. Stay positive!
Step 4: Keep Training Sessions Brief
The average cat has a fairly short attention span. Keep your initial training sessions brief – just 3 to 5 minutes long. Gradually increase the length of each session over time as your cat becomes comfortable with the process. End every session on a positive note with rewards so your cat eagerly looks forward to the next session. Don’t overdo it.
Step 5: Focus on Easy Behaviors First
When first training your cat, stick to teaching basic, simple behaviors. For example, work on fundamental skills like sit, come, stay, their name, or walking on a leash. Mastering easy beginner behaviors helps boost your cat’s confidence so they feel empowered to learn more difficult skills later on. Keep it fun and achievable.
Step 6: Use Tools Like Target Sticks and Clickers
Take advantage of handy training tools like target sticks and clickers when teaching your cat. Touch the tip of a target stick to where you want your cat to go luring them to follow it. Clickers make a quick noise allowing you to mark correct behaviors precisely before rewarding your cat.
Step 7: Practice Daily Short Sessions
Daily short training sessions work much better than sporadic long marathon sessions. Aim to train your cat for just 5 to 10 minutes once or twice a day every day. This establishes a consistent routine, strengthens the training techniques, and keeps things fun for you and your cat. In no time training becomes a rewarding part of your cat’s daily schedule.
Step 8: Always End on a High Note
Be sure to finish every training session by rewarding your cat for something they did well. This leaves your cat feeling a sense of accomplishment rather than frustration. Your cat will look forward to the next session eager to succeed and please you even more. Go out on a high note!
Stick to these methods consistently, and you will begin noticing positive results within just a few weeks. Let’s summarize the key training tips:
Top 10 Training Tips for Cat Owners
Follow these top 10 tips to achieve stellar success when training your cat:
1. Start Young – Kittens between 7-16 weeks old are the most receptive to training as their young minds are rapidly developing. Take advantage of this prime learning period to instill good behaviors.
2. Use Tiny Treats – Break treats into small pea-sized bites. This allows you to generously reward your cat frequently without overfeeding them.
3. Find Your Cat’s Strongest Motivators – Determine what your individual cat loves – treats, catnip, toys, pets, praise. Use their strongest motivators as rewards.
4. Stay Consistent – Always use the exact same training cues, commands, and rewards. Inconsistency will just confuse your cat and delay progress.
5. Keep Sessions Short – Multiple brief daily sessions avoid boredom and maximize retention over time. More small sessions lead to more success.
6. Train Before Mealtime – Your cat will be ultra-motivated to work for treats if trained right before their normal meals when already hungry.
7. Incorporate a Clicker – The clicker allows you to precisely mark desired behavior so you can reward at just the right moment.
8. Practice Patience – Some cats learn faster than others. Let your cat progress at their own pace and keep it positive.
9. Practice Daily – Daily short training strengthens skills and reinforces the human-cat bond.
10. Always End on a Good Note – Finish sessions with easy successes so your cat leaves feeling proud and excited to train again.
Now let’s cover what basic behaviors and commands to start training your cat:
5 Foundational Commands to Teach Your Cat
Here are 5 essential commands to begin training your cat on:
Call your cat to you in an enthusiastic, encouraging tone of voice. Immediately reward with treats, praise, or pets when they reach you. Over time, practice comes from gradually farther distances and when mildly distracted to solidify it. This teaches your cat to reliably come when called – important for their safety.
Hold a treat over your cat’s head so they look up at it, then slowly move it back toward their tail so they sit down. Reward immediately once their bottom hits the floor in a sit position. Gradually increase sitting duration before rewarding to teach patience.
Have your cat sit. Say “stay“, take a few steps back, then return and reward. Slowly increase the distance you move away and the time they stay before rewarding. This teaches your cat to calmly remain in place on cue.
Hold a treat by your cat’s nose, and slowly lower it straight down to the floor. The second they lie down, reward. This trains a down/settle on verbal command.
Say your cat’s name so they look at you, then reward. Repeat until they consistently look at you when you say their name. This establishes attention and name recognition.
With regular daily 5-minute practice sessions, your cat can master these 5 basic skills in just 4 to 8 weeks. They provide the core foundation for training more complex behaviors down the road.
Stopping Unwanted Behaviors
Training your cat goes hand and hand with discouraging unwanted behaviors like scratching furniture, jumping on counters, or waking you up at night. Here are some effective and humane methods to stop undesirable behaviors in their tracks:
For Furniture Scratching – Place sticky double-sided tape or aluminum foil on surfaces. Also, ensure your cat has appealing cat scratching posts to redirect scratching.
For Countertop Surfing – Deter your cat from jumping up with motion-activated devices or by placing an upside-down carpet runner on countertops. Also, reward four paws on the floor with treats to teach them where to be instead.
For Attention-Seeking Meowing – Completely ignore pesky meowing and only give your cat attention when quiet. Ensure they have sufficient evening playtime and enrichment.
For Litterbox Problems – Add more litter boxes, clean frequently, try larger boxes, or switch up litter brands. Bring your cat to the vet to rule out underlying medical issues.
For Biting/Aggression – Never hit or yell at an aggressive cat. Redirect biting onto appropriate toys. Consult an animal behavior specialist for guidance.
With consistent rewards-based training and appropriately redirecting behaviors, you can modify unwanted cat behavior for a more peaceful home.
Top Tips for Training Cat Training Success
Here are the top tips to achieve stellar success when training your cat:
- Make training fun and engaging – incorporate favorite toys to keep your cat interested and motivated.
- Use small treat pieces so you can generously reward your cat frequently.
- Determine your individual cat’s strongest motivators like treats, brushing, catnip, praise, or play to maximize results.
- Conduct training sessions right before mealtimes when your cat is at peak food motivation.
- Use a clicker for precise and timely positive reinforcement marking.
- Start with very short 3-5 minute training sessions to avoid overwhelming your cat.
- Take baby steps – gradually shape behaviors by rewarding small approximations.
- End all sessions on a high note of easy success and generous rewards so your cat leaves happy.
- Maintain consistency using the same cues, rewards, and training areas.
- Practice daily short, fun sessions to provide mental stimulation and strengthen your bond.
- Remain positive, patient, calm, and consistent – the keys to cat training success!
With regular short training sessions focused on positive reinforcement, you can transform even the most aloof or stubborn cat into a well-mannered companion animal. Proper training strengthens the relationship between you and your cat for a lifetime. Follow these cat training tips, be patient with your feline, and you’ll achieve great results. With dedication and persistence, you’ll have obedient cat-perfecting commands, learning tricks, and politely following house rules in no time.