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How to clicker train your cat in 6 easy steps

Who says a cat can't learn to do tricks? Learn how to teach your cat to follow commands using the clicker method and positive reinforcement.


By Melissa A. Kay, Better Homes and Gardens

Clicker training is a popular dog training technique, but many people don't realize it's also one of the best ways to train a cat. Cats can quickly form a connection between a command and click, especially when rewarded with a tasty treat! With continuous practice and positive reinforcement of the desired trick, command, or behavior, you'll be able to effectively train and bond with your feline companion in no time. Here's how to get started.

How to Start Clicker Training

First, you'll need a clicker. A clicker is a small hand-held plastic or metal device that makes a unique clicking sound when you press it. If you don't own a clicker, you can use other objects that click instead—a retractable pen, for example. Choose an enticing reward like a treat to use during training. The reward doesn't have to be food; instead, you can use playtime with a toy only utilized during training with the clicker or anything else your cat thinks is rewarding.

Start by getting your pet used to the sound of the clicker and associating it with a reward. Each time you click, give the cat a treat. Your cat will love getting a treat just for hearing the click. While some cats will immediately make the connection between the sound of the clicker and receiving the treat, other cats may need you to repeat the process several times.

Basic Clicker Training Commands

Now that your cat is used to the idea that treats and clicks go hand-in-hand, it is the time to teach your cat commands. For instance, you may want to use the clicker to teach your cat to come to you when you call—something most cats don't do readily—or for litter box training. You may want to clicker-train your cat to go to a particular room in the house when you have guests or teach them to get off the kitchen counter. Clicker training is great for getting your cat into the carrier, too, which most cat owners struggle with. Whatever training you are trying to accomplish, the clicker makes it so much more doable.

Start with a basic command like "come." Call the cat, then click and give it a treat once it comes to you. Repeat this for a few minutes (five to fifteen) at a time. Once your cat understands the command, you can discontinue use of the clicker. Verbal praise and treats are still encouraged, though!

Teaching Cats to Do Tricks

After covering some of the basic commands, some pet owners use a clicker to teach their cats tricks like sitting, standing on their hind legs, or giving a high five. Every cat is different with regard to what she is capable of being taught (or willing to do), but most cats are reward motivated, so keep at it.

Clicker Train a Cat in 6 Easy Steps

Keep in mind that it will take some time before your cat associates the training clicker with a desired outcome, but overall, cats require much shorter training times than dogs. Keep these best practices in mind:

1. Aim for short cat training sessions (usually only a few minutes at a time) and stop if your cat appears uninterested.

2. Never punish your cat as it stresses her and could lead to more behavioral problems.

3. Never click more than once.

4. Be sure to click as soon as you see the behavior you are trying to teach, not before or after it, so your cat knows exactly why they're being praised and rewarded.

5. Once your cat learns the behavior, add a "command" or cue word. Click and treat when she does the behavior on your cue. 

6. Once your cat responds to your cue word, you can stop clicking.

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Pets Magazine: How to clicker train your cat in 6 easy steps
How to clicker train your cat in 6 easy steps
Who says a cat can't learn to do tricks? Learn how to teach your cat to follow commands using the clicker method and positive reinforcement.
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