Many people marvel at those who have well-trained cats. However, it turns out everyone can train their cat with just a few simple tips and some basic commands to get them started. Be sure to check out Cat Training - It's Possible With These Three Tips, Part-One where we share the three most important tips cat guardians must know to train their cats. Then check out Cat Training - Basic Commands to Make Life With Your Cat Easier, Part-Two for important best practices and two commands every cat should be taught before anything else. And because delicious treats that will motivate every kitty to love learning new things are crucial, check out EcoTreats™ Wild-Caught Sockeye Salmon Filet Bits and EcoTreats™ Signature Chicken Jerky. They are premium, all-natural, USA-sourced cat treats that are free-from irritating additives, and tasty for cats.
In this article, we’ll be sharing some basic commands every cat can learn as long as their guardian has established trust and followed the three top tips from the first in this three-part series.
First, here’s what to do if training didn’t go well the first time around, or if the trust was broken prior to any attempt to train Mr. Boots.
Doing the work to build trust is important prior to training any fur-baby. Cats are particularly sensitive to whether there’s trust. For some kitties, trust of humans was broken before they were adopted. Even though they love their current guardian, there may still be some trust-building needed. For others, it’s just a matter of laying the foundation, so training is successful and productive.
Pro tip: Don’t mistake lack of trust for a cat that may be distracted or uninterested. If Garfield would rather play or is more interested in the squirrel outside the window, training may be a lost cause at that moment. Try again later when kitty is calm, and the area is free from distractions.
What does trust look like? For kittens and cats, they’ll be interested and want to figure out what you’re trying to say. As they begin to practice the new behavior or trick, they’ll be looking for positive reinforcement by making eye contact, or approaching us for a treat and praise. It’s crucial we are consistent and observant enough to see these important queues. If Sergeant Fuzzy Boots doesn’t trust us or is unsure of what’s happening, they’ll be unresponsive, keep trying to get away from us, and may even hide. If he won’t let us pick him up or tries to dodge our touch, that can also be a sign that the trust foundations have not been built.
What not to do. As independent and willful as they may seem, cats are sensitive to feeling safe and secure at all times. And rebuilding trust can take just a little longer than laying the foundation in the first place. Be sure kitty has a safe place to go where nobody, including dogs or aggressive felines, will bother them. Never corner her or try to force her attention. We shouldn’t yell or punish in any way as this is one of the most significant trust factors. We can’t try to train anyone while there are distractions, including cats. If we’re correcting a bad behavior in the moment, such as scratching the furniture or litter box avoidance, we have to remember not to do it angrily, but to redirect the bad behavior instead. Nobody can learn effectively while they are stressed out. Don’t try to train kitty during or after they’ve been startled, when returning from a vet visit, or while they are displaying common signs of stress such as diarrhea, excessive grooming, and displays of aggression.
What to do to build trust. Remember to be patient. If our efforts aren’t working, just try again later. We can let our kitty come to us by trying to be still and relaxed. It’s a good idea to greet our cats the way cats need to be greeted by placing our finger or hand at nose level periodically throughout the day. This gives them the opportunity to communicate with us. If he puts his nose against our finger, smells us, and maybe even rubs his face on our finger, we’re making headway. After a few times, we might even try to rub their head and neck, briefly at first, then for longer sessions as Miss Kitty Fantastico allows. If she turns her head away from our hand, we need to walk away and try again later. Eventually, she will see that we won’t force an interaction and will be more open to longer ‘conversations.’ It’s also a good idea to connect with organizations that can help provide advice. Our vet can offer great advice, and there are even cat behaviorists to call on for more difficult cases.
Pro Tip: patience and understanding are key. We can’t build trust by forcing snuggles or corning our cat to try and play with or train them. All we can do is give them time and remember the recommended trust-building best practices at all times.
While kitty is calm and free from distractions, sit at the same level, whether on the floor or the couch. While holding a treat, say the word, “shake” and tap his paw. For those using a clicker, we would click right when he moves his paw to reinforce that is the action we want. If kitty just moves his paw away from our hand, rather than toward our hand, be sure he knows the treat is there. We can even touch his paw and then hold it as we give him the treat to associate the paw touch-hold-treat, cycle. Do this a few times a day for several days.
This one is similar to the handshake, so for clarity, don’t train kitty on both of these at the same time. We can place a treat between our fingers so we can show a flat, raised hand without dropping it. Touch her paw and say, “high-five” as we pull our hand back to the high-five position. Click just as she raises her paw. Once her paw touches our hand, even if not in the perfect position, give her that treat. Repetition is important. Do this several times in a row, several times a day, for several days. For those who want kitty to reach high for a high-five, we should begin by keeping our hand within reach so kitty won’t have to move anything but her paw.
This only works while kitty is in a standing position. With a treat, we can move our hand in an upward motion from nose level to above our kitty’s head while saying, “sit.” This should make our feline friend look upward, which will trigger the movement to sit. Pause for a few seconds. If our kitty doesn’t sit or tries to jump to meet our hand and get the treat, simply begin the motion again and repeat the sit command. If she doesn’t get it right several times in a row, try to reset. Give her a treat. Move to a different place, and try again. Or take a break and try again later.
When cats are comfortable and having fun, they’ll be motivated and will learn fast. If kitty doesn’t seem interested, try switching to a different treat. It could be that the wrong treat is causing digestive upset, or it’s just not tasty enough. Avoid high-calorie treats and be sure whatever we choose, that it’s nutritious.