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How to Train a Cat: Importance, Benefits and Tips
Commonly, people believe that a cat is an independent animal as it prefers scavenging and exploring on its terms. However, owing cats are extremely rewarding, courtesy of their versatility. So, if you are currently thinking of bringing home this furry friend, you must be aware of how to train a cat.
It ensures you have real intimacy with your pet, and they follow all your commands. So, let’s dig into it.
Why Is it Important to Train a Cat?
Generally, cats do not innately work in partnership with human beings. Furthermore, bored cats can be destructive, resulting in unwanted biting, scratching and counter-surfing.
That is why it is essential to encourage them to follow commands to start desired behaviour.
Here are three reasons why training cats is essential:
- Cats require both mental and physical training. Otherwise, it may give rise to weight gain, anxiety, aggression, depression, etc.
- It helps strengthen the bond and builds trust between the cat and the owner. You will understand the body gestures, personality, and how the mind works better.
- Training a cat to solve problems improves their movement as it serves as both mental and physical exercise.
What Are the Basic Things You Can Do to Train Your Cat?
Understanding what exactly you want to train your cat depends on the behavioural action of your furry friend. Once determined, you can decide if you wish to correct its destructive behaviour or teach some tricks.
So, if you are looking for how to train your kitten or cat, keep reading:
1. Respond to Its Name
Cats are considered intelligent animals due to the right positive stimuli. This helps them respond to its name promptly. Further, this can be the first step in how to train a cat journey to make the process seamless.
Steps to Train a Cat to Respond to Its Name
Step 1: Pick a simple name for your cat. Then, stand in front of your cat freely and keep a small pot of their favourite food ready.
Step 2: Call them by their name and see if they look at you. If they do, say 'Yes' in a happy voice and reward them quickly with a bit of food.
Step 3: In case your furry friend breaks the gaze, repeat step 2 to reinforce further positive association with them. Once they get the hang of it, repeat these steps for some days.
Step 4: Now stand at a greater distance and call out their name to help them learn other contexts as well. Nonetheless, ensure the changes are gradual as they may get distracted due to an abrupt change.
Step 5: When your pet responds well in this training session, offer them a toy or allow them to be outdoors to reduce reliance on treats. However, adjust how often you reward your cat with a treat. Otherwise, they will stop responding to their name if you suddenly stop rewarding them with treats.
2. Sit Down
Teaching your kitten or cat how to sit helps in building blocks to other trainable skills. This requires a lot of patience and some treatment for your furry friend.
Steps to Train a Cat to Sit Down
Step 1: Stand in front of your kitten or cat and hold the treat between the end of your index finger and thumb with your palm facing upward. Ensure it is 1 to 2 cm away from the cat's nose. You can also sit or kneel for the same.
Step 2: Now slowly lift the treat to 5 cm from your cat's nose to make them follow it with gaze and look upward. Once they start following the treat, your cat will naturally take the sitting position. This may take some time, so keep holding the treat until they sit.
Step 3: Once your cat sits, say 'Yes' and give them the treat. You can either throw it from a distance to make them move and then go back to their sitting position naturally. In case your cat is not responding to it, feed it with your hand and then move to help your cat stand up. Then restart the process.
Step 4: If your pet is comfortable, alter your hand movement. Hold the treat in front of your cat and flick your wrist up to signal them to sit. When they sit, say ‘Yes’ and give them the treat. Once your cat masters this, you try the process without any treats.
Step 5: When your cat comfortably sits on cue, start practising by standing at a greater distance and encourage them to hold the position for longer.
3. Shake Hands or High-five
There is a myth that dogs have a monopoly on shaking paws to greet and meet people. You can train your kitten or cat the same to be a feline greeter. They can learn how to raise their front paw and touch it against your or your guests' extended palms.
How to Train a Cat to Shake Hands or High-Five?
Here are the steps you can follow to train your cat to shake hands or attempt a high-five.
Step 1: Hold a treat in your hand and keep it slightly in front of your furry pet’s eye. Wait for them to lift their front paw off the ground. Command “Shake” and reward them with a treat.
Step 2: Repeat this process from time to time till your cat responds to your cue by raising their paw whenever you keep your hand at their eye level. Say 'Good shake!" and reward them every time they respond.
Step 3: Once your cat starts putting their paw, whenever you raise your hand to their eye level, say “High-five”. Reward them with a treat when they comply. Repeat it for better results.
4. Walk on a Leash
By taking your cat for a walk, you can enhance their senses, alertness and intelligence. You can use a cat harness to ensure they do not slip out of their collar or injure their neck when pulling.
Steps to Train a Cat to Walk on a Leash
Step 1: First, put the harness on your cat or kitten without attaching the leash. Next, give treats to your furry friend when the harness is on and do not give treats when their harness is off. Repeat to make them practise the procedure.
Step 2: Once your cat is comfortable with the harness, attach the leash and allow them to walk around with the leash loose. Repeat it for a few days till your cat can freely walk in the harness and leash.
Step 3: Now let your cat drag the leash while freely moving around to get comfortable with minor leash tension. However, you must supervise the entire process for precaution.
Step 4: Repeat step 2 and then try to gently lead your pet in another direction. During this, you can drop treats on the floor or hold them in your hand to lure and then reward them for following the instruction.
Step 5: Once ready, then take your cat outside. If frightened or hesitant, do not force your cat to go out. Stop for the day and continue practising indoors.
5. Fetch Items
Contrary to popular belief, you can train your cat to fetch just like a dog. Fetching is an interactive game that involves your kitten's or cat's sense of smell, taste, touch and sight. Further, it will allow them to exercise their prey drive naturally.
Steps to Train a Cat to Fetch Items
Step 1: Use a toy or a ball to lure your cat. Once they touch it with its nose, the command 'Yes'. Next, reward your pet with a treat to enable them to target the object.
Step 2: Repeat step 1 to help your furry friend associate the toy or ball with a reward. Now, start encouraging them to grab the ball or toy with their mouth.
Step 3: Once your cat grabs it with their mouth, say ‘Yes’ and reward them. Repeat this multiple times to help your pet associate the toy or ball with positive reinforcement.
Step 4: Now practise by placing the ball or toy at a distance from you. Wait till your pet comes to pick it up. If they come, offer them the verbal cue 'Yes' and reward them with a treat.
Step 5: Repeat the process several times. This will enable your furry friend to drop the toy or ball on your lap and wait for you to toss it again.
6. Jump Through a Hoop
Though it seems difficult, training cats to jump through a loop can be entertaining. In addition, this can be beneficial for cats as it is challenging for your feline friend mentally and physically.
Steps to Train a Cat to Jump Through a Hoop
Step 1: Entice your cat with some treats to help them connect this behaviour with rewards. You can either use a toy or some food on the end of a spoon as a target to make your feline follow your hand.
Step 2: If your requirement is how to train your kitten to jump through a hoop, a child-size hula hoop is perfect. Now get your cat to familiarise them with this hoop. Lay a hoop on the floor to let your pet explore it. You can drop treats inside and outside the hoop to lure your furry pet.
Step 3: Once your cat is freely walking inside and around the hoop while lying, raise it. You can hold it either with your hand or suspend it in a stand. This will let your pet get accustomed to a new posture- touching the upright hula hoop with its nose. Reward your furry friend for their efforts.
Step 4: Once comfortable, hold the hoop properly, ensuring it touches the floor. Use a toy or food to entice your feline through the hoop. You can begin rewarding small steps to encourage your cat to move their full body through the hoop. Now that they are more comfortable, reduce the reward to only when they can pass their entire body completely through the hula hoop.
Step 5: You can now hold the hoop off the ground. Ensure to raise the height slowly so that they are comfortable for your furry friend. Once they consistently follow this instruction, say cue “Jump” or use a hand signal and provide the target on the opposite side of the loop. Repeat till your cat performs it without any treat or toy.
7. Use a Litter Box
Cats are instinctually tidy creatures. Commonly they expel bodily wastes in dirt or sand and dig and bury them. However, cats are finicky when it comes to bathroom training. Therefore, be careful while selecting a litter for training cats to use the same. You can use a covered or self-cleaning box at your convenience.
Steps to Train a Cat to Use a Litter Box
Step 1: Cats generally relieve themselves after playing, eating or taking a nap. Therefore, learn the schedule to direct your pet to use the litter box.
Step 2: You can play with your cat near the litter box if you notice that they are most likely to eliminate after running, etc.
Step 3: If the litter box is inside the house, close the door and lure them in with some toys to let them pounce on till the need to relieve presents itself. Ensure to place the litter box away from their food and water bowls.
Step 4: Carry them to the litter box if they do not voluntarily direct toward it. To teach them how to dig in the box, you can scrape some litter aside. Ensure you are not using their paw to scrap the litter as it may frighten or make your furry friend anxious.
Step 5: Once your cat uses the litter box properly, reward them with a treat to ensure a positive association with the action. However, make sure to offer the treat immediately after they leave the litter box for prompt results.
What Precautions to Take While Training a Cat?
Cats are smart, and thus it can be a bit tricky to train them. Therefore, to overcome complications, you must take precautions with proper training to channel your feline’s intelligence in productive ways.
1. Avoid Keeping Unattainable Training Goals
The pace of adapting training varies from one cat to another. While a few may learn things at a brisk pace, others may take days to get comfortable around their owners. Thus, pushing your feline hard to adopt desired behaviour may cause unnecessary frustration and confusion.
However, you can increase the level of difficulty of the training sessions but at a pace suitable for your furry friend. This will boost confidence and potentially exhibit recognisable changes in its behaviour.
2. Do not Try to Eliminate Instinctive Behaviour
There are certain behaviours, such as pouncing, clawing, climbing etc., which may seem undesirable for you but are natural for cats.
Therefore, if you try to undo these behaviours, it can be stressful for your pet. Instead, try to direct these to places where they are acceptable. You can use a box to help your cat relax, let them climb trees or walls, etc. Furthermore, offer them treats, toys etc., if they follow this instinct at designated places.
3. Try to Understand Its Gestures
Suppose you find your cat scratching on the sofa. You may end up scolding them or shooing them away. This helps them understand that scratching the sofa helps in drawing your attention. Therefore, try to interact with them in a different way to put a stop to such unwanted behaviour.
You can flip your response and reward your feline every time they exhibit some favourable behaviour. If not, simply ignore or redirect them.
4. Be Consistent With The Commands
If you want to train your cat properly, you must use positive reinforcement. Instead of punishing them, use cues such as 'off', 'down' and 'stop'. Moreover, with patience and practice, you will help your pet unlearn bad behaviours.
However, ensure you use the same voice commands and hand signals to regulate your pet's behaviour to avoid confusion. Further, cats like companionship and not ownership. Thus, never punish your cat, as they may not respond well to it. This will result in anxiety and stress, which eventually will hamper your furry friend's sense of trust towards you.
Apart from these, be sure to keep the training sessions short, as cats are quick learners. To end the list of how to train a cat, make sure you have taken preventive measures to keep them away from flea and tick infestations. Furthermore, do not skip the vaccinations as they prevent cats from contracting any diseases and transmitting them to other animals.