You can rain a cat. Training a cat can be quite easy if you use clicker training. If you learn this training method, you can clicker train almost any animal. Clicker training is a form of Positive Reinforcement, based on Operant Conditioning.
To keep it very simple, It's the combination of positive reinforcement and a clicker, which is nothing more than a noise maker to mark when the cat is doing the behavior we want to see more often. If you are one of those people who want to understand WHY Clicker training works, you can learn so in this post.
We use the noise maker as a marker to indicate to our cats that they performed a behavior that is going to get rewarded with food or treats.
Should You Clicker Train a Cat?
Despite it being quite common to see dog parents training their dogs, we don't as often see cat guardians training their cats. Cats are very subtle in the way they communicate and they are also very independent, which makes some people believe that cats are untrainable, but they are extremely smart and can learn clicker training.
Clicker training your cat will not only make you look like a rockstar in front of your guests, but it also has many other benefits.
Some of the main benefits of clicker training your cat are:
- Clicker training a cat is a great opportunity to have bonding time between the cat and the cat parent.
- When cats think, they are draining their energy, much like when they are walking. This will help them sleep through the night.
- Using positive reinforcement to prevent unwanted behaviors is more effective than punishment and will keep your relationship with your cat healthy.
- Clicker training will make your cat listen to you to receive guidance because you will both "speak" the same language.
Do you Need a Clicker to Train a Cat?
You don't necessarily need a clicker to train your cat. You can use other markers like verbal commands, clicking your tongue any other noise maker. There are a few drawbacks to not using a clicker: The sound won't always be consistent, the time it takes to mark the behavior might confuse the cat, and finally, the sound can happen outside training sessions, reducing the value of the reinforcer.
Let me give you some more context: You can teach your cat using operant conditioning using another marker, like snapping fingers or saying "YES" or "GOOD".
Why is the clicker important? Well, imagine for a second you ask your cat to perform a task…
Between the moment I started saying “Good” and the end, Mia has done 3 things, at least: Stood Up, Grabbed my hand, and looked at me. What exactly am I trying to achieve here?
The clicker allows you to “mark” the exact moment when your cat performed the command you expect and are rewarding your cat for (in this case, removing the first 2 legs from the ground)
The good news is that clickers can range from super cheap and you can find them in every pet store, even on Amazon. There are also more premium clickers, specific for cats and designed to train indoors.
How to Clicker Train a Cat
Clicker training a cat is easy, I believe you can teach your cat in only 3 steps, but before starting clicker training your cat you need to do the following:
Start feeding your cat on a schedule
Because we are going to use food as a reinforcer, we need to make sure that our cat has some appetite before the training sessions. This does not mean that your cat is hungry, it only means that some anticipation and willingness to work for food is needed.
If we have always a bowl of food available for our cats to munch on, they will never be hungry enough to work for food.
Find the Treat that Your Cat Will go Crazy for
Another easy trick to help your cat be motivated to train with you is finding that one trick that they go crazy for.
We all have food that we can't say no to. On cats, freeze-dried chicken or turkey are usually going to be at the very top of their preferred treats.
Clicker Training a Cat in 3 Easy Steps:
- Charge the Clicker
- Start marking the behaviors you want to see more often
- Add a verbal command when doing the trick
- Repeat Until Your Cat Internalizes it
I recommend you to take a look at this video, that explains how to get started in clicker training by following 3 very easy steps:
What's Charging the Clicker?
Charging the clicker is nothing more than priming the cat that after a treat, comes a reward.
When you help your cat understand that after a click comes a reward, the clicker (conditioned or secondary reinforcer) becomes as rewarding as the treat itself (primary reinforcer)
Charging the Clicker for Cat Training
To charge the clicker we are going to click, then reward multiple times. After a few repetitions, the cat is going to start anticipating that after a click comes a reward.
When the cat starts looking for a treat after the click, means that they already undersand the meaning of the marker. The clicker is then charged.
This process should not take longer than 10 to 15 times. Some cats might need a little less, some might even need days.
How Do You Teach a Cat Tricks?
The two easiest ways to teach tricks to a cat are: Capturing and Luring
Capturing using Clicker Training
Capturing is like taking a picture of your cat doing something that you like. When your cat does a behavior that you want, you click, then reward.
With time, the cat it's going to do more of that behavior and then you can add a cue, first visual (with your hand) then verbal (with your voice).
Luring Using Clicker Training
Luring consists on using food and a clicker to get your cat to go places.
You can lure them off the counter, inside the carrier or back home if they are outside.
A good example of luring is finger targetting. If you have not started clicker training your cat, it's good to start teaching those tricks that are useful and help your communication with them, like this article.
What Other Tricks Can You Teach a Cat?
Cats can learn almost any trick. I encourage our students to learn tricks that are going to be useful first, like sit, stay and follow the finger. Once the cat learns the useful tricks, you can start teaching the fun tricks, the party tricks: Sit pretty, spin, roll over and lots more.
Now that you know what clicker training is, charge your clicker and start teaching your cat new tricks!
in this video you'll learn 5 easy tricks you can teach your cat:
If you enjoyed the video, share it with a friend!
Albert & Mia