When we consider training, we automatically think of dogs. Dogs are trained for obedience, for work on farms or to detect drugs, illegally imported items, even cancers. Training does not generally bring up a vision of a cat obeying your every word. Yet, cats can be trained.
What commands can cats learn?
Cats can learn all sorts of commands – to sit, to roll over, to shake a paw. Cats like to do things in their own good time, so to train them we need to be really motivated, set aside some time and above all, be patient. Remember, cats are individuals and each one will react differently when training begins. Some will ignore you or look at you as if you are mad, whilst others will be very curious and eager.
Teach one trick at a time. You can reinforce tricks your cat has mastered, but don’t confuse them by teaching more than one new behaviour at a time.
How to train a cat
Cats, like dogs, are motivated to do things in life that benefit them. Seeking tasty morsels of food or a cat game with a favourite toy are favourite activities. Usually it is the cat who demands these from their owners. So let’s turn it around. Use these motivators to your advantage.
The sit and Hi 5 commands
All cats sit, so teaching this is easy. As your cat sits, say “Sit”, then praise them, with a pat or treat. Also introduce a hand signal, such as your hand held vertically in a stop sign, to further help your cat learn. You can quickly extend this training to have your cat join in a ‘Hi 5’ with you, where they raise a paw to your hand. First, encourage any tiny movements of their paw by giving a cat a treat each time their paw moves off the ground. Then, with the treat wrapped in your fist, wait for her to use her paw to try to grab it, then give them the treat as a reward. Gradually lift your hand higher and when your cat touches your hand with their paw, reward them.
Everybody loves learning tricks – especially your dog! Teaching him some simple dog tricks and commands won’t just look impressive, it will give you the opportunity to spend some quality time together too.
Tell your dog to sit, then give them a treat. Hold another treat out of reach (but close by), and say ‘high five’, touching one of their feet.
They’ll probably paw at the treat in your other hand; when your dog does this, gently pick the paw up and let your dog have the treat, making lots of fuss of them at the same time.
Repeat this sequence this until your dog associates the ‘high five’ command with touching your hand with his paw!
Teach your dog to play dead
For the more advanced canines, why not try and teach your dog to ‘play dead.’ It’s a great dog trick and is an easy party piece to teach your eager four-legged friend!
Start by getting your dog to lie down. If you’ve moved on to this advanced trick then you’ll already have taught your dog the basics like ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘down,’ so this first part should be easy.
Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose and slowly pull it over to his side so he’ll have to roll over to get the treat. If your dog has already learnt how to roll over, he’ll already know how to perform this action too, making this step a walk in the park!
When your dog is lying on his side, praise him and give him a treat. Then, repeat these steps several times until your dog is able to complete the action. Now add a cue word with a hand signal. Lots of people use the verbal command ‘bang’ with a hand signal in the shape of a gun pointing at your dog, although you might just want to use ‘sleep’ or ‘dead’ if you prefer, with any hand signal you like.
Say your chosen command with your hand signal and repeat steps two and three. By practising this trick several times a day, your dog will soon be falling at your side and pretending to ‘sleep’ or ‘play dead.’