Training your Cat
Cats are intelligent animals and yet surprisingly tricky to train! Unlike dogs they don’t see human attention as an adequate 'reward' for their obedience. However it is possible to train cats and you might even be surprised at what your cat can do, if you begin at an early age.
To train a cat you must use their favourite foods as a reward, but don’t expect them to pick up tricks anywhere near as quickly as a dog. Cats respond best to short training sessions regularly. It is easy to know when to end a training session as your cat will get bored and wander off. Don’t try and drag your cat back for more training as this will be counter productive. Training will take a great deal of perseverance but will be worth the reward when you can show off your cat’s cool tricks to your house guests!
When your kitten is more than 4 weeks old you can place them in the litter tray after eating. It is important that the litter tray is placed away from their food and in a quiet area. You can show them how to dig the clean litter with your finger, to try and encourage the kitten’s natural digging instincts but usually they will grasp this by themselves. Observe your kitten and show them affection after they have used the litter tray correctly. Don’t talk or encourage the kitten when they are digging or defecating, as this can make them anxious and discourage them from using the tray.
Some kittens will prefer privacy, like with the enclosed Maya Cat Litter Box
It is a natural instinct for cats to sniff and bury their waste. Their waste contains pheromones which can be detected by other animals. In the wild, dominant cats may not bury their waste because they wish to mark their territory. Submissive cats will bury theirs so they aren’t seen to be competing for territory.
Most cats and kittens will understand that the litter tray is their toilet fairly quickly but if they don’t there are a few things you can try:
- Get a bigger litter tray
- Remove or cover any large house plants that have enough soil to be used as a cat toilet
- Change to a new type of litter
- Place the litter tray in a quiet area of the house.
Litter training your kitten is great because it means you don’t have to worry about cleaning up any cat mess in your house.
How to Clicker Train a Cat
Clicker training is is a great way to teach your cat some tricks that will impress your friends. You can train your cat to come when she’s called, get into her cat carrier on demand, high five, sit, fetch, and many other fun and useful tricks. You will need quite a lot of patience to begin with, but once your cat gets the hang of the training process you will be well on your way to having a cat fit for the circus.
To ensure you and your cat get the most out of the training sessions you need to find a place that is quiet and distraction free. You should clear out any toys she might get distracted by and try to train her when everyone is out of the house and it's quiet. You will also need to do your training sessions when your cat is a bit hungry, an hour before she is due to be fed is usually perfect. It is best to keep your training sessions short to avoid both you and your cat getting frustrated. Five minute sessions are a good length.
- Step 1 | Incentivise
In return for its favourite treat your cat will be willing to do anything. Unlike dogs, cats don’t see petting as good enough reward for performing tricks. Have her favourite treat handy; this can be anything from cat kibble treats to tuna; whatever interests your cat most. Make sure the treats are pea sized, so chop larger food items.
- Step 2 | Associating the click with treats
The first step in clicker training is associating the clicking noise with receiving a treat. Start the association process by clicking the clicker whilst giving her a treat. Your cat will begin to understand that every time she hears a click she will receive a treat. Repeat this process several times, making sure you wait for her to finish the treat before starting again. If your cat is losing interest very quickly you need to find her a tastier treat. Do not talk during this process, so your cat only associates the click sound with the treat and doesn’t get confused.
- Step 3 | Strengthening the association
You will now task your cat to perform for the treat. Don’t worry, she won’t really know that she is performing and you aren’t asking for anything difficult yet. This time instead of giving her the treat, when you click, toss the treat a metre away from her so she has to take a couple of steps to get it.
- Step 4 | Introducing a target
A target is usually a stick with a ball on the end of it (such as a pingpong ball on a stick). Hold out the target to your cat, and click when she interacts with it. This interaction can be anything from her sniffing the target to pawing at the target. Remember to always give her a treat once you have clicked. As you give her the treat make sure to hide the target behind your back as you don’t want her interacting with the target when you aren’t ready to click and give her a treat. Repeat this step several times until she understands that she has to interact with the target to receive a treat.
- Step 5 | Using the target
Now you can begin to train your cat to do more complex things with the target. If your cat just touches the target with her nose, now wait for her to paw at the target or interact in a different way. When she does, click and reward her with a treat. Step by step you can get your cat to do things like jump up to reach door handles, open doors or to come when you call her.
Training Your Cat to Sit
Training your cat to sit is quite a simple task. Hold the treat up above her and move it backwards until she sits whilst using the verbal cue “sit”. When she sits, click and give her the treat. Keep repeating this to reinforce the association between the verbal cue, the click and the treat. Do not reward any behaviour performed without the verbal cue.
How to Stop a Cat Hunting
Just like lions, tigers and cheetahs hunting is a natural instinct for your cat and sometimes the only way to stop it is to confine your cat inside. If your cat’s hunting bothers you but you don’t want to keep it inside all the time there are ways to reduce or even stop them hunting.
A cat hunting a mouse outside in the grass.
If your cat is a prolific hunter then it is even more important that you regularly deworm them. Wild birds and mammals are likely to carry parasites like worms and if your cat becomes infected it is easy for them to be passed on to you.
- Dusk and Dawn
Cat’s are most likely to hunt at dusk and dawn so an easy step to take is to keep your cat in for a few hours around these times.
Many cat collars come with a bell to alert other animals to your cat’s presence. If you feel the bells are inadequate just add a few more to the collar. However always remember to make sure your cat’s collar has a safety release clasp.
- Well Fed
A cat that is hungry is more likely to seek out alternative sources of food through hunting. We are not saying you should overfeed your cat but do stick to a routine of regular meals. A full cat will be quite content to snooze the day away.
- Well Exercised
Play with your cat and provide him with a stimulating environment. Cat Trees are great for this as they allow natural climbing, scratching and jumping opportunities. When your cat is well exercised they are more likely to prefer a nap to a hunting trip.