Can cats learn tricks as well as dogs? See how to communicate with and teach your cat through clicker training.
It's okay to admit it: You "ooh" and "ah" over cat videos featuring felines performing amazing tricks. We all do it. But how do cat owners get their pets to perform some of those video-worthy tricks? The answer might be simple: clicker training.
What Is Clicker Training?
Pet owners use a small, handheld device known as a clicker as part of a reward-based system to train cats. As soon as your cat completes a desirable behavior or a trick you're teaching her, activate the clicker and reward her with a treat. The clicking noise helps your cat identify the specific behavior that earned the reward. Remember to keep treats small and easily digestible to avoid over-feeding your kitty.
Communicating with Cats
Katherine Pankratz, a 4th-year veterinary medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, asserts that clicker training is a form of communicating with your cat.
"With the right technique, it can be an invaluable tool to help you talk with your cat," said Katherine in an interview with Petcentric. "Not only can cats be clicker trained, they're never too old for it once you find the right positive motivation."
The key to training your cat is consistency — making the uniform sound of the clicker is preferable to vocal cues, which can vary in intonation.
"If you want to use a vocal cue, choose one word to use, and practice saying that word with the same intonation. The advantage of the clicker is that the sound is consistent every time, so there is less variation on that aspect of the training," Katherine added.
Can Cats Really Be Trained?
Cats can learn tricks and behaviors that mirror classic dog obedience training commands, such as sit and stay, as long as a reward is involved. For dogs, a reward isn't always necessary. But with cats, keep the tasty treats coming while training. Eventually, you can move away from edible rewards and try giving a belly rub or scratch under the chin to praise a job well done.
Have you ever taught your cat a trick? Let us know how it worked in the comments!