Can I Teach My Kitten to Like Learning New Tricks?

Step Two: Train

One of the main stumbling blocks in training cats is finding the right motivation to get them to believe that training is worth the effort. But if you teach your kitten from a young age that play, petting, praise, treats or anything else she enjoys is available after she performs a behavior such as a sit or wave, then she will understand early on that doing what you ask results in a worthwhile reward.

Clicker training is my preferred training method with cats because it gives your cat immediate feedback when she does something right. In addition, your cat is never forced to participate but will willingly offer behaviors once she realizes that she will be rewarded for them. Rewards may be food, such as canned tuna or cat treats, petting or play. When you start training, keep in mind that in all communication with your kitten, it’s essential to use consistent, positive, gentle interactions, rather than punishment; punishment breaks the bond of trust between you and your kitten and will make training more difficult.

There are several foundational training behaviors that are useful building blocks for teaching other tricks. The first one is to target an object, such as a target stick, which can be used for teaching other behaviors, like a spin or jumping onto a platform. The next is coming when called, which is useful for getting your cat’s attention and getting her right next to you when asked. The third is teaching your cat to go into her crate when asked. You can also capture behavior with your cat by clicking and rewarding when she spontaneously does something you like. Some basic behaviors you can capture are sit, down and wave, which you can click as they naturally occur; later, you can add a verbal command that can be used to ask your cat to perform on demand.

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