Teach Your Cat to Make Eye Contact

Lure Her Gaze

An alternative tactic for teaching eye contact is to use a lure to direct your cat’s gaze toward your face. The lure can be a treat or toy — something your cat finds interesting. Catch your cat’s interest by showing her the lure; hold it close enough to her that she can clearly see it but not so close that she can paw at it.

Once your cat is looking at the lure, raise it slowly until you are holding it one or two inches to the side of your face. Wait for a few seconds and then, if your cat glances over slightly toward your face, mark and reward. The reward may be the lure itself.

If your cat does not shift her gaze from the lure to your face, start over: Lower the lure, show it to her again and then raise it so it is close to your face. You can also add a soft kissing noise or other attention-getting sound to encourage your cat to glance over toward your face.

Keep in mind that in the beginning, your cat may shift her eyes to your face only extremely briefly in a quick momentary glance.

When your cat is consistently looking from the lure to your face, begin to fade the lure by hiding the toy or treat inside of your hand. Eventually eliminate the lure entirely and simply hold your hand like it has the lure inside. Add a verbal cue, like “watch” and say it just before you move your hand toward your face.

Reinforce the Behavior

Once your cat is reliably looking at you — regardless of which method you’re using — work on increasing the amount of time you ask her to make eye contact before you reward her. At the same time, continue to occasionally reward brief moments of eye contact to keep your cat engaged with the training.

Start by working one-on-one with your cat; when she has mastered making eye contact with you, have her practice doing so with other people. This can help to boost her confidence with strangers and people she’s less familiar with.

By moving at a comfortable pace and pairing the experience with appreciated rewards, you can teach your cat that eye contact is not a threat but a sign of good things to come.

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