Clicker training for cats is much the same as clicker training for dogs, with one exception. The treat had better be worth the effort! Find what motivates your cat—is it a special treat or food? Time to play with that favorite toy? Maybe he just wants to sit and cuddle while you tell him how incredibly smart he is. Whatever it is that makes him cooperative and wanting more, that’s your ticket to training a cat.
The idea behind the clicker is simple. When your cat does something you like, immediately let him know. However, immediate is a problem. By the time your brain registers that he did it, and you say good boy and fumble for a treat, the delay is too long. He’s moved on to something else and will have the mistaken idea that was what you wanted. A clicker, whether from the pet supply store or just an ink pen, can make its noise as the behavior happens.
To practice clicking at the right moment, have a friend tap a finger on the table in a random pattern. You click for every tap. You’ll find yourself clicking when she taps, when she doesn’t, too soon and too slow. It takes practice but you’ll get the hang of it without too much trouble. Always stop when you are being successful. Never end on a low note or it spoils the enjoyment of training.
To understand what clicker training is like from the cat’s point of view, tell your friend you are thinking of a shape. Ask her to draw it - with no clues. It can be a square, rectangle, star, anything. As she starts to draw, click when the pen is going in the right direction. Stay quiet when she’s made a wrong turn. This is an exercise that will make you laugh and also cry in frustration - think what it’s like for the cat. Human-speak is a second language for a cat!
Once you've had your practice and feel more proficient in clicking at the right time, start to work with the cat. It’s easiest to watch what the cat does and then wait for him to do it again - click, treat.
The click signals that the good thing comes next. It’s a surprise at first. If you want the cat to sit, just wait until he does and then click. Quickly hand out a treat. Make it so he has to move to get the treat which then gives another opportunity for him to sit. At about the third or fourth repetition, he’s suspicious. You can see him thinking, “Hmm, I sat down and heard a noise and then got a treat. It happened again. I wonder if I can make it happen?” That’s when he’ll figure out what clicker training is all about and you’ll figure out, you should have had more lessons and treats ready because he’s anxious to learn new things.
After you get the desired results several times, then add a verbal cue. Once the verbal cue is in place, you can add a hand signal. If you link behaviors together, change the order so the cat is following your cue, not just following the usual routine.
Cats are smart and can be trained. Just remember, cats are like method actors - their question is, “What is my motivation?”
Persian kitten learns dog tricks:
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