Teaching Your Cat Tricks Starts with a Click
PetSmart Debbie McKnight/Accredited PetSmart Trainer
You may have heard cats can’t be trained. Not so! With the proper techniques, any animal can be trained. You just need a few helpful tips to get you started.
Teach your cat to “target.” Targeting is simply teaching your cat to put a certain body part, like his nose or paw, on a certain item like a target stick. There are many commercial target sticks on the market, but you can make your own. Use a dowel and wrap some colored tape on the last twp inches to provide contrast. (To teach your cat to target, familiarize yourself with using training markers. We’ll assume you’re using a clicker and treats to start with and that your cat has already been introduced to the clicker.)
- Nose targeting or "touch": for nose targeting, smear something yummy, like canned food, on the end of the stick. When he licks it, click and treat. Remove the target stick from sight while he’s eating the treat. Present the target stick again and when he licks, click and treat (each time removing the target stick while he eats the treat). Once the food is gone, wait patiently. Most cats will investigate to make sure there’s really not any more food smeared on the stick. Of course you’ll click and treat when he touches it. Very soon he’ll realize that every time his nose touches the target stick he gets a treat! Most people call targeting a nose to an object “touch.” Once the behavior is reliable, you’ll want to put a verbal cue with this. To attach the verbal cue to the behavior, say “touch” and then present the target stick. When he touches it, click and treat.
- Paw targeting: entice your cat to play with the stick by wiggling the stick around like prey. When he paws at it, click and treat. With each repetition, you’ll want to move the stick less and less until he will paw the end of the stick even when it’s still. Once he paws the end of the Most people call targeting a paw to an object “tap.”
Targeting can be a useful tool when teaching your cat other tricks. You can even use it to teach him to flush the toilet or shut cabinet doors! As with all training, keep your sessions short and fun. Your cat should look forward to these special times with you.
Debbie McKnight is an accredited PetSmart trainer in Hurst, Texas.
For information on PetSmart's Accredited Training, please visit PetSmart's training web site.