It’s often thought that cats cannot be trained to respond to commands as dogs can, but that isn’t true. What’s that one thing that gets your cat's attention? Most likely food is the first thing to come to your head. Operant conditioning relies on a simple premise: Actions that are followed by reinforcement will be strengthened and more likely to occur again in the future.
Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence of that behavior. Thanks to this association, operant conditioning can be used to motivate behavior change.
Clicker training which is a form of Operant Conditioning allows us to teach almost anything to our cats. It's simple and can be taught in 3 easy steps.
Not all tricks are created equal!
Despite you can teach your cat to "sit", "high five" or "spin", there are tricks that will serve you better than others when it comes to living and improving your life with a cat companion.
The right order to teach tricks to your cat are:
- Foundational Tricks: Tricks that enable other tricks or improve sharing our lives with a cat
- Useful Tricks: Teach your cat tricks like Sit and Stay or Come When Called to get our cat to wait for food, or wait for us to take a cute picture of them. They can also be great for recalling them from outdoors.
- Party Tricks: Tricks that will get people's attention and make your cat an Instagram star
Starting clicker training too early can create stress and insecurity in very young cats. The very first trainer of every cat is their mom. Until they are around 12 weeks old, the kitten should be, whenever possible, socializing with the mom. This will prevent problems of aggressive play, not using the litterbox, or fearing other cats/people.
After 12 weeks, around 3 months of age, the kitten can start “formal training” indoors. Outdoor training should wait a little longer, at least until the kitten has all the vaccinations ready and they can wear the flea and tick prevention products of your choosing. In our case, we started clicker training at 12 weeks of age and outdoor leash walking around 14 weeks.
To learn more about when to start and what to teach, we put together this video:
What are the first tricks I should teach my cat?
- Come When Called
- Finger Targetting
- Sit & Stay
These are the most useful tricks you can teach your cat. Then, once these are mastered, you can go ahead and teach them "party tricks".
If you enjoyed the video, share it with a friend!
Albert & Mia