When we think about training or educating an animal, the cat is not the one that comes immediately to mind.
When talking about training, the animal that immediately comes to mind is of course the dog.
You can do tracking exercises with a dog, like those offered by this service: gak9.com.
It is often said of our small felines that they are cute, but also too independent, even rebellious. And that, consequently, to train them proves impossible.
Make no mistake: it is quite possible to train a cat. It is enough just to know how to do it…
Follow this guide on how to train a cat in which we share our tips and tricks.
Why Train a Cat?
Even trained, cats are not able to perform the same exercises as dogs (forget the idea of playing Frisbee games with kitty!).
However, they can still learn simple tricks, such as rolling over, pawing, jumping through a hoop or standing on their hind legs.
But the point of training should not be to turn your cat into a circus animal.
Training is mostly useful for a more harmonious relationship between you and your pet.
It can thus improve your feline’s behavior (if he is very shy or anxious, for example) or allow him to better tolerate situations that are sometimes difficult for him (getting into his basket to go to the veterinarian, letting himself be examined or cleaned, taking medication…).
Icing on the cake: these exercises done together are also a very good way to strengthen the relationship between you and your cat! So let’s dive in how to train a cat!
How to Train a Cat: Things your Cat Can Learn to Do
Coming to You
Start the exercise in your kitchen. Cats like it here because this is where they are fed. Hold a bowl in your hand filled with treats.
Call your cat by name while shaking the contents of the bowl. If your cat ignores you, not knowing what is going on, walk towards him and shake the bowl in front of his eyes. Give him a treat and come back to the kitchen. Shake the bowl again and call out the cat’s name.
When he finally comes to the kitchen, give him a treat.
Repeat this exercise – calling his name by waving his bowl – about 10 times during the day. Make sure you have enough treats! You’ll see, over the course of the exercise, he’ll end up coming much more quickly than the first time.
But be careful, stick to the doses prescribed on the package and adapt his main meal accordingly.
Repeat this training session the next day. Then try to call him from the kitchen without waving the bowl, but just by saying his name.
On the following days you will repeat this exercise in different rooms of the house.
He will soon understand that when you call him, he is rewarded. When this learning is well acquired, gradually and alternately replace the sweets with caresses.
When you train a cat to come to you, use a higher tone of voice. Cats are more attracted to a higher tone of voice, a lower tone of voice can mean that he is about to be reprimanded.
Instead of calling him by name, you can also choose to use the sound of an object to teach him to come.
Give the Paw!
More difficult than for his friend the dog, but not impossible. Have your cat sit down and touch it at the elbow joint (top of the paw). By reflex, it will then lift its paw. At the same time, say a short command (“paw”, for example) and reward it.
You can also attract it with an object and when the cat tries to grab it, take its paw in your hand and hold it for a few seconds.
Repeat this gesture, rewarding it each time, then every other time until it registers the principle.
No Scratches on the Furniture!
Hard to see its beautiful furniture lacerated by the cat’s claws. The best way to do this is to invest in a good old scratching post and encourage the cat to wear out its claws on it.
Rub olive pits, catnip, Feliway or any other product that could attract the cat.
And if that’s not enough, keep the water sprayer handy so you can give him a gentle spray if he’s about to damage your treasured furniture.
Keeping Him Away from Plants
Cats like plants because they are used to purge themselves. But for owners, it can be annoying to find their plants scratched, especially since they can be toxic for the animal.
To save you this hassle, you can split a pot of catnip to divert the attention of your mischievous feline. If that’s not enough, say a firm “no” and spray him with water if he insists.
After a while, he will understand by himself that it is forbidden.
Congratulations, you’ve just train a cat to keep himself away from plants!
No Nocturnal Meows
A problem often mentioned by cat owners: the animal meows at night and wakes them up.
To get a good night’s sleep, simply postpone the time of his meals or invest in a food vending machine that will deliver its meals according to frequencies that you will have defined.
Cats may also meow because they are bored. In this case, make sure to play with him in the evening so that he can get some exercise and leave him a quiet cat toy (plush style) at his disposal.
With a little luck, kitty will fall asleep at the same time as you do!
Using the Toilet
Eliminating the litter box and training your cat to relieve himself in the toilet is a sure money and cleaning gain, at least in the long term.
A litter box smells bad, and it can make an entire room, or even an entire apartment smell bad. It is never pleasant to see your cat’s toilet in your living room.
Here are a few tips that will help you train a cat using the toilet.
It may seem futile, but you really need to be patient. This is not a natural place for the cat, and learning can take time. Above all, be prepared to make a few mistakes. You’ll have to change his litter box, and he may not immediately understand the ins and outs of such a procedure.
You have to plan everything. If you have several washrooms, choose the one that will be the most accessible for him, and perhaps the one where he can do the least damage.
Don’t forget that you’ll have to leave the door open so he can come when you’re not there!
You will also have to leave the seat up so he can put his paws on it.
Educate your guests as well, so that they don’t close the door or lower the bezel. You might find a small gift at the door!
Next step is to move the litter box. There are two ways to do this.
Either you choose the radical version, and you move the litter in the toilet immediately, or you choose the soft version, and you will move it little by little over the days.
Once the cat has gotten used to going to the toilet, the real work begins.
Small note: remember to lower the seat, otherwise your cat might fall in the bowl!
There are tools specifically created to teach your cat to urinate in the toilet. The best known brand is Litter Kwitter.
The process is simple: you have different bezels in different sizes, which you will need to use at different stages of learning.
At the beginning, you put the large bezels with a small hole, which contains biodegradable litter. The more your cat gets used to it, the more you will use the bezel with a large hole, until you keep your own bezel.
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can create these tools yourself, with a little imagination.
The litter is already in the toilet, it will then be enough to bring it closer and closer to the bowl. To do this, use stools, books, or chairs until the litter is at the same level as the toilet seat.
As you do so, your cat will learn that he will have to jump on the toilet if he wants to urinate.
Once this is done, put the litter box on the toilet.
After a few days, the cat will become accustomed to staying there.
Once he has gotten used to it, you can use specialized bezels. As the weeks go by, you will be able to observe your pet and see if it is comfortable there. Replace the glasses with larger holes whenever you feel it is necessary.
A few accidents may happen, but once you no longer notice any, dare!
Once you have reached the last pair of bezels, you may consider removing them. This should take two weeks for the most studious cats.
Bringing his Toy Back (Playing Fetch)
Yes, your cat can learn how to retrieve a ball or other object that you throw to him! Of course, you must use something that your cat can easily carry in his mouth.
You can use one of her toys, like his stuffed mouse for example, however a simple piece of newspaper crumpled into a ball often works much better.
Start by getting your cat’s attention. If you use a crumpled piece of newspaper, squeeze it between your hands and make it make noise.
Once your cat is looking at you, throw the paper ball right behind him. He will probably run after it and play with it.
Take the ball back, congratulating your cat and return to your original place. If your cat caught the paper ball in its mouth, do not try to take it away from him. Congratulate your cat and slowly return to your place, encouraging your cat to follow you.
It will probably stay in his place. Then wait until he drops it, pick it up and throw it again.
Do the exercise for about 10 minutes, without forgetting to constantly praise him.
Repeat at the same time each day. After a few days, try to wait a while before bringing the paper ball back.
Your cat may become impatient and bring the ball back to you. This can take time, so don’t lose patience…
The best time to teach your cat to sit is just before eating.
Take a treat with you, show it to your cat but do not give it to him. Hold the treat high above his head and then lower it down to his nose and say “sit”.
The cat will follow your movements and will sit down. Then give the treat to the cat and praise him.
If your cat doesn’t sit down, hold the treat a little forward of his nose by saying “sit” and pressing down on his rear end.
When your cat sits down, give the treat and praise him.
Repeat every day until it works!
How to Train a Cat to Use the Litter Box
Don’t hesitate to place your cat in the litter box after his meals and to make a scratching movement to encourage him to do his business if he doesn’t do it himself.
On the other hand, don’t force your cat to do the movement by holding his paws, as he may become frightened.
If you catch him isolating himself, scraping the floor or sniffing it, he is about to relieve himself outside the box, so lead him inside right away, but as gently as possible! If he feels assaulted, he will refuse.
Accidents are inevitable as he learns, but be patient and you’ll see progress quickly. As soon as he defecates in the box, reward him with a caress, encouragement always pronounced in a soft and loving voice, and offer him a treat.
In the event of an accident, never put your cat’s nose in his urine or feces, as he won’t understand this gesture and may think you are showing him what to do.
On the contrary, once his needs are done, let him feel them and gently take it to his tray so he understands that he must do them next time. However, there’s no need to do this several hours after the accident, he won’t understand.
In any case, don’t yell at him, scold him or abuse him. You’ll only stress him, scare him and invite him to do it again.
If the problem persists or if you notice an abnormality (frequent urges to urinate without production, blood in the urine or stool, etc.), consult the veterinarian quickly.
Walking your Cat on a Leash
First thing: forget the collar. It is out of the question that you equip your cat with a collar. Why not? Because a collar could injure the cervical vertebrae, the trachea and the larynx of your cat when he tries to struggle during the first walks on the leash.
The harness allows for a better distribution of weight over the body and therefore presents little risk of injury. Note that this recommendation is also valid for dogs.
In order for a cat to be able to bear the sensation of the harness on its back, it must first be accustomed to seeing it in its living space. Let it hang on the floor for a few days so that your cat can come and smell it.
Once this first phase is over, put the harness on for several minutes each day to familiarize him/her with the new feeling.
The ideal time is the time before the meal. When he eats, he will forget the leash is there. Don’t forget to give him a little treat when you take it off.
The day your cat no longer tries to remove the harness, you can move on to learning how to leash.
There are leashes specially designed for cats. The ideal is to opt for a long, light and elastic leash to give the cat some freedom.
Once the leash has been chosen, put your cat in its harness and attach the leash to it. Then let it hang behind your cat. The goal is that, as with the harness, he gets used to its presence.
Then take the leash in your hands and let your cat lead you in the direction he wants you to go. After a few days, try to gently impose your own routes. If he doesn’t struggle, reward him with lots of petting and treats. You’ve been able to train a cat to walk on a leash!
It is essential not to force your cat to do something he doesn’t want to do. Indeed, felines have a sensitive memory, meaning that if they associate a bad moment with a particular situation or object, there is no chance that they will repeat the experience.
The outside environment can be particularly stressful for a cat. If your cat gets scared the first time he goes out and you force him to stay, he will be terrorized for the rest of his life by the simple act of walking through the door. Caution, therefore…
Street noise and movement can be frightening for our four-legged friends. For your cat’s first outings, choose a quiet place such as a park, garden or balcony.
At first, keep the leash short, then as your cat relaxes, lengthen it. And don’t forget, for every little victory, a treat!
If you encounter an external element that causes your cat to panic (a dog for example), do not pull on the leash to bring it to your side. This will only make your cat more frightened. Take it in your arms and pet it while talking to it gently.
On the first walk on the leash, do not exceed 5 minutes, otherwise your cat will be flooded with too much information all at once. Then, as you go out, increase the walking time.
On the other hand, it is not advisable to untie your cat, even once he is completely accustomed to the outside world. If he hears a noise he doesn’t know, he can escape or take refuge in a tree.
How to Train a Cat: Frequently Asked Questions
Using Rewards to Train a Cat
Training a cat is a little more difficult than with his canine colleagues, and he obeys slightly different principles.
This is especially the case for the motivation to learn: where a dog will accept his master’s orders just to please him, a cat will need a reward, let’s say… more substantial.
Thus, if kitty agrees to play, it will be mainly in exchange for food!
The Clicker Training Method
On the other hand, the methods to be used are identical. One will use positive reinforcement.
Because with cats even more than with dogs, using punishment is particularly counterproductive.
The clicker training method has also proved its worth with cats. It is a matter of clearly signalling to the animal the behavior that has earned a reward by a distinctive sound (which can be a “click”, but also the ringing of a bell, a mouth sound…).
Understanding the Psychology of the Cat
Furthermore, it is important to realize that cats are solitary animals, not animals that live in packs. This is the reason why they do not consider their human roommates as dominant.
It also means that they will not always want to follow the rules set by their human roommates. Some cats obey better than others.
What to Do If Something Goes Wrong?
It is essential to react immediately to your feline’s misbehaviour. Does your cat get up on the table or bring its little muzzle closer to the edge of the table? Does it scratch your sofa, curtains or wallpaper? Make him understand that all these things are forbidden to him by saying a firm “no” and moving him away from the table or putting him in front of his cat tree for example.
Ideally, place one or more cat trees in one or more places accessible to your cat.
It is also recommended to place cat trees around furniture that has already been scratched intensively.
By spraying your cat trees and scratching posts with cat mint, you will encourage your curious little one to come and scratch.
If your cat misbehaves, you should react within one or two seconds at the most, so that he can make the connection with his latest misbehaviour.
Every immediate and coherent action on your part related to a good behavior of your cat, such as congratulations for example, or offering your cat a treat, will have quick and lasting consequences on its education.
Your cat will thus take to heart the rules you have defined for him.
Training a Kitten: At his Mother’s Side
It is especially important that you let your cat experience its first experiences with its mother, ideally for as long as possible. Proximity to their mother creates the necessary conditions for the kittens’ mental and physical health.
If the kittens have been separated from their mother too early, they may become more fearful. Once again, this would diminish their quality of life as much as your chances of reaching a good level of education.
Indeed, educating a kitten that has spent enough weeks with its mother is easier.
Kittens are more receptive to all forms of learning when they feel safe and when their mental balance is stable.
Be Patient While You Train a Cat
Are you ready to start training your cat? Get the ultimate weapon first: the super reward! It will be a treat that your cat will love and that you will have to reserve for your training sessions from now on.
If it depends on your cat’s tastes, we still advise you to favour 100% protein (dried meat, chicken pieces, tuna flakes, etc.).
The actual training will then require patience, because for greater efficiency, it is best not to exceed one session per day lasting 5 to 10 minutes.
When you feel that your cat is in a cooperative mood and is a little hungry, you can start training.
Start by getting his attention, then give him a simple command (e.g., sit down, placing your hand over his head).
Reward him with a treat when he succeeds, then gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise.
If all goes well, you should see results in just a few days!
Essential Products to Help You
Training a cat or kitten is not easy, but a few accessories can help!
Amazon’s pet store can help you equip yourself to make the task easier. In its area dedicated to felines, you can find everything you need to train your pet.
PetSafe and Feliway anti-stress sprays and diffusers, SoftClaws claw protection kits, catnip to distract your cat’s attention from the sometimes toxic plants, treats for reward and many other accessories await you at Amazon, to make it easier to train and educate your little furball.
All you have to do is make your choice.
A Selection of Products to Help You Train a Cat
- SoftClaws Cat Scratch Guard Kit
- Clicker for cat training
- Sentry Calming Cat Collar
- Feliway Cat Stress Spray Classic
- CityKitty Cat Toilet Training Kit
Final Thoughts on How to Train a Cat
As we have seen, a cat can learn to do many things, if of course you have the right method and you understand how the psychology of your small animal works.
Do not hesitate to let us know what you think about this article, and most importantly, tell us about your personal experience with your cat: What did you manage to make him do? How did you go about it? Was the cat receptive or not?
Cat Staring Photo by Gabriel K from Pixabay