Teaching your cat tricks is possible, not because of training them, but it is also a way to create a better bond with them, and it is also a form of environmental enrichment.
The cat in the wild must hunt to feed itself, so part of the time that it is not sleeping it is used to hunt. Our house cats, on the other hand, having an “alcove buffet” do not need to look for food. This, together with the little environmental enrichment that they sometimes have, makes them bored , and may even have behavioral problems and obesity.
To avoid these problems and strengthen our bond with them, we can teach them some tricks, which will allow us, for example, to teach them to get used to the dreaded carrier.
What are we going to need?
- Bits of prizes that you love. In fact, if we only use those treats at this time, our cat will be looking forward to playing with us and receiving his favorite treat.
- We can use a clicker or make a snap with the mouth . We will use the clicker just at the moment in which it makes the movement we want, and later we will give it the prize. With this sequence, our cat will learn that the sound of the clicker is related to something well done and to its favorite prize.
It is important that before starting to use the clicker indiscriminately we learn very well when and how to use it. Otherwise, we can drive our cat crazy and be counterproductive instead of a support for us.
- An extendable rod with a ball at the end that will help our cat know where to go and when to touch the ball.
- Patience. Much patience. Cats are very smart. Some get the tricks sooner than others. We must know the limits of our cat so that it does not get frustrated.
Yes! Cats can get frustrated too
And, how long will we be each day? Ideally, we do short and frequent sessions (5 to 7 minutes). In general, the cat prefers short interactions, because it can also get bored and lose interest.
These three tricks will help you
- Sit and shake
The first thing we should know is that what we are going to teach at the beginning are behaviors that our cat already performs. Sitting down is something habitual in him, so we are going to encourage this behavior , adding the word “sit” or “sit” when he does it and rewarding him afterwards.
The idea is to reward “natural” behavior so that they then do it when we want.
To do this, what we will do is, with one hand, move the prize above his head, between the eyes, so that it naturally supports the rear part. It will be at that moment when we use the clicker and/or say the word “sit” and later we will give the prize.
But, what is the use of teaching him to sit in one place? There are cats that are anxious or that need a type of care, such as giving medication, trimming or brushing, and we want them to come to us and have a pleasant time, instead of having to chase them around the house and deteriorate our bond.
- “High five”
To get our cat to high five with our hand, the first thing we have to do is get it to look for the prize inside the hand. Generally, they will use their paw to touch our hand with it.
Once he touches our hand with his paw, we will use the clicker and then we will give him the prize.
To get the five to collide, we will raise our hands until our cat touches us with its paw at the height of its head.
- Get into a box
We know that our cats love boxes, and get into them. So we are going to take advantage of precisely this adoration that they feel for the boxes.
For this we will use the extensible rod.
The first thing we must do is get our cat to follow the rod. To do this we will throw a prize and we will place the end of the rod in the prize so that it goes towards it. When it reaches the prize we will use the clicker to reinforce the behavior.
At the moment that we have managed to get our cat to follow the rod, we will guide him with it towards the interior of the box so that he enters inside. Once it enters, we will use the clicker to fix the behavior and we will give the prize.
Teaching him to enter the box when we want can help us to go little by little by teaching him the use of the carrier. We know that it can be a traumatic situation for them, but with little games and tricks we can get them to enter by themselves and consider it a safe place.
These tricks and more that can be done with our cats will help us to improve the bond with them , since they are moments that we dedicate exclusively to them, playing and giving them their favorite prizes, thus improving their environmental enrichment and preventing possible alterations behavioral
Schroll, S. 2005. Clicker Training with Cats. Current Issues and Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine, 286.
Kogan, L. et al 2017. Assessment of clicker training for shelter cats. Animals, 7(10), 73.