Written by: Judy Karnia, DVM
I may be a bit biased, but I believe cats are very smart. They are great learners. They learn very quickly: what will get you out of bed or how to talk incessantly until you give them a treat. They can also learn things that we might want to teach them. Training your cat is a great way to provide mental and physical stimulus and also to prevent unwanted behaviors.
Our clinic cat, Kristina, greets our clients at our front desk and in our reception room. Sometimes, a cat coming in for a veterinary visit does not like seeing her and we want to move her into my office. I just say “treat!” and walk back toward my office and she comes running. Rattling the treat bag also has the same effect.
You can train your cat just for the fun it provides to you both or to separate your cats if there is tension between them. I hear from many of my clients that they have one very active cat that pesters the other cats beyond their desire to play. Or they may have a cat that tries to control the movement of another cat. There can be many solutions to talk to your veterinarian about, but one thing that can help is to train the active cat to come when called. The training also provides mental stimulation to distract him from the other cats.
Tips on Training Your Cat
The first step is to find a treat that your cat really likes. You may need to limit his access to food a little so that he is willing to work for that treat. Kristina loves her dry kibble but we only feed her canned food regularly and we do not leave dry food available. The dry food makes for a great training reward for her.
All you need then is patience. A cat will learn that a certain behavior gets a reward. The easiest trick to teach is “sit”. Hold the treat out to your cat but don’t give it to him until he sits. He will eventually get bored and sit down. As soon as his bottom hits the floor, give the treat. It will only take a few treats for him to figure this out.
Once he has figured out that he only gets treats when he does certain things, he will do those things for you. You can teach him to come to you (good to use when he is about to bother one of your other cats), jump up onto chairs or his cat tree, jump across furniture.
Kristina knows our routine now. She sits for the first treat then follows from my office to the reception room, jumps onto the chair, jumps across to the table, back to the chair, getting a treat for each trick. The only limit for your cat is your imagination.