Clicker Training Your Cat: A Simple How-to Guide


Last Updated on: July 20, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Many people think that training a cat is impossible. It’s true that there are cats out there that won’t appreciate such efforts; anyone who spends time with a cat knows how much they prefer doing things their own way!

That said, it’s quite possible to train a cat. There are even performing cat acts, like the Savitsky Cats, that can outperform some dogs!1

Here are a few tips on how you can train your cat with a clicker, including going over what that is. We take you step by step on how to clicker train your cat.


Why Train a Cat?

Before we get into the details of training your cat, we want to tackle why you would even train your cat in the first place. It will benefit them in several ways:

  • It’s a great way to stimulate your cat’s mind and body, which can help keep them out of trouble.
  • It can also help you form a stronger bond with your cat.
  • It can make cats with anxiety or aggression issues more confident and less likely to act out, particularly if they have behavioral problems that might stem from boredom.
  • It can help if you like taking your cat on outings, like walking on a harness and leash. You can even train your cat not to bolt when startled outside.

Let’s take you through the steps to start successfully clicker training your cat.

clicker-training-cat
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

1. You’ll Need a Clicker

Clickers are handy tools that are part of positive reinforcement training. They are small devices that fit in the hand and make a noticeable clicking sound when pressed. Clicker training is also known as marker training because the clicking sound “marks” the desired behavior.

Any clicker can work with a cat, even one labeled “for dogs.” Just bear in mind that it shouldn’t be too loud, as that might startle your cat. You can also download a clicker app! If your cat is hard of hearing or deaf, you can use a penlight.


2. Give Them Treats

You’ll want a high-value treat that your cat will do anything for. If your cat loves regular cat treats or lickable ones, stock up on them.

If these treats don’t motivate your cat enough, try things that they don’t usually get, such as small pieces of tuna or boiled chicken. Aim for something that smells strong and will attract your cat to it.

But only give your cat a small amount of whichever treat you’re using; you don’t want your cat getting full on snacks.

maine coon cat having treat
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

3. Introduce the Clicker to Your Cat

Cats don’t have the longest attention spans, so your training sessions need to be short—just a few minutes at a time.

Start by getting your clicker and treats ready, and sit on the floor with your cat. Click the clicker, and immediately give them a treat or a lick of a lickable treat.

Continue this while your cat is still interested, and they will eventually start to catch on that good things happen when they hear the click. You’ll notice this when your cat starts to look at the treats instead of the clicker after hearing the sound.


4. Decide What You Want to Train Your Cat to Do

Now that your cat has a basic understanding of the clicker, you need to gradually start incorporating actual training. Start by training your cat to sit:

  • Ensure that they are standing and focused on you. With your treats and clicker at the ready, hold a treat up to your cat’s nose.
  • When your cat starts sniffing it, slowly arc the treat from the nose to between their ears and say the command word “sit.” Your cat will follow the treat, and as they raise their chin to track it, their rear end should automatically hit the floor.
  • The moment that they sit, immediately click the clicker and give them the treat. Through repetition, your cat will associate sitting with the click and your command word.

Another option is to keep a sharp eye on your cat, and when they naturally sit, say “sit,” click, and give them the treat. Keep this up, and your cat should eventually associate sitting with rewards.

a clicker for animal training
Image Credit: Priyo Adiprasetyo, Shutterstock

5. Continue the Training

Once your cat has mastered sitting, you can try different commands. It’s best to stick with the kind of training designed to help your cat stay safe rather than attempting to force them to learn tricks for performing in front of other people.

It’s important that cats retain their dignity, so aim to teach your cat to do things like walking on a harness and leash and coming when you call. You can also train your cat to stop unwanted behavior, such as scratching the couch. But this kind of training should be done in conjunction with making the couch undesirable. Put sticky tape on the areas where your cat scratches, and anytime your cat scratches the scratching post, click and reward.


6. Don’t Give Up

Cats are not domesticated the same way that dogs are. They have just lived alongside humans without any real attempt at training, so don’t expect your cat to take to it quite as easily as a dog.

It can take a while for most cats to respond to clicker training, so it’s important to be patient and persevere. Ensure that you’re using a treat that makes your cat super motivated; otherwise, find something that your cat really responds to.

cat owner looking at her pet
Image Credit: U__Photo, Shutterstock

Final Tips

  • Always click the moment that your cat does the desired behavior.
  • Only click once; never click multiple times or it can prove confusing.
  • Training sessions should only be for a few minutes every time.
  • Some tricks might need multiple steps, so click and reward for each one. For example, when teaching your cat to enter the carrier, click and reward when they approach it, when they sit near it, and when they enter it.
  • Every action that your cat takes must be voluntary. Never push them or move them yourself.
  • Never punish your cat, even if they just don’t seem interested in the training. Punishment will only stress your cat and cause fear and anxiety.

Conclusion

It’s possible to clicker train your cat regardless of breed or age, though some cats will respond much quicker than others. All cats have different personalities and temperaments, so it’s best to be patient and take your time with training.

Clicker training your cat is an excellent way to bond with them and will help build confidence in your cat too. Just remember to be consistent and use rewards that your cat will do almost anything for, and your clicker training should prove successful!


Featured Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

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