Teaching an Old Cat New Tricks
Just because you’re really more of a “cat person” doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice one of the best parts about having a dog: teaching it party tricks! While it’s true the two species do have a different learning style, you can absolutely help your feline friend absorb the basics.
Keep in mind that cats derive more motivation from play than snacks. (Although an all-natural cat treat or two will certainly facilitate the process.) You should also come prepared with a little extra patience. Cats generally need a few more reps than dogs before they can master any one move.
Below we’ll offer up some general training tips and five tricks that any cat, no matter how headstrong, can perform…when they feel like it.
Cat Training Tips
Regardless of age, all cats possess the ability to learn a simple trick or two. Though it’s true that kittens and younger felines learn quicker and easier, even mature fur babies have the ability to master something new.
To help aid your trick training, make sure to keep the sessions consistent and short– for no more than 10 minutes each day, at the same time of day. Minimize distractions and try to engage fluffy before they have dinner so treats will be more enticing.
Best to invest in a clicker as well. They can be purchased from any local pet store. The noise will help form an association between the ‘click’ and a reward. When teaching, be diligent about following up each click with a treat and your cat will be jumping through hoops in no time!
All your favorite, classic dog tricks can be easily taught to your cat with the above training tips. Now for a look at how to master each one!
- Sit– It’s one of the easiest tricks to teach and many others build off of sit, which is why many trainers recommend tackling it first. Once your cat is in position, say the word sit, click and reward with a cat treat. After a few days in session, you should be able to gradually take away the treats and elicit the trick on command alone.
- Shake– Once they’ve mastered “sit”, shake is the next logical step. From the sit position, softly take their right or left paw in yours and say the word “shake” slowly and clearly. (Make sure to use the same paw for a while to avoid confusion.) As you do so, mark with a click and feed them a small reward. Over time you can fade out food and encourage them to meet you part way.
- Lay down– Again, start from the “sit” position. Use a treat or piece of high quality cat food to catch their attention and guide their heads to the floor. Give your “down” command at the same time to make the association. After a few tries, your cat’s body will likely follow the head. When they do, click and reward.
- Roll Over– Teaching this trick is a simpler one after your cat can lay down on command. Once she can, get her attention by presenting a morsel over her shoulder. This will turn the head and coax her into rolling over on her side to get the treat. Make sure to click and give her the snack as soon as she makes this motion as she’s flipping.
- Fetch– Think you can’t teach your cat to fetch an object? Think again. Get a hold of your cat’s absolute favorite toy. Toss it out a ways and gently take from their mouths when you catch up to them. Throw again immediately and walk over to repeat the process. Over time, cats are likely to conduct this hunt and release on their own.
In the end, there’s no ‘wrong’ way to teach and reward cat tricks. Still, we do recommend using an all-natural, high quality cat food as treats. This way you’re not packing on the calories every session. You could also try a freeze dried raw meat snack, cats love them! Then, sit back and watch as you prove the naysayers wrong. You absolutely can teach an old cat new tricks!