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Training your cat can seem daunting, especially if you're not sure you have the right tools. But cat training doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive — and many of the tools you'll need are things you probably already have around the house.
Here's our simple startup guide for the essentials you’ll want in your cat training toolbox, along with a few additional options to consider as training progresses. What are you waiting for?
Clicker. A clicker can be used to mark and reinforce desired behavior. Clickers come in a variety of shapes with varied attachment styles, from a wrist strap to a finger band. Box style clickers can be fairly loud and may make some cats nervous. The noise can be dampened by placing the clicker in your pocket or under your arm or by wrapping thin fabric around the outside. A ballpoint pen can also be used as a substitute.
Target stick. Targeting can be helpful to your cat in a variety of situations, including greeting people and getting on the scale at the vet’s office. Targeting can also be helpful when you’re teaching complex tricks like jumping through a hoop. Target sticks are available in a variety of styles, including targets with built-in clickers and collapsible targets for easy storage. You can also use a serving or silverware spoon, the eraser end of an unsharpened pencil, a pen with cap on or your hand as a target.
Treats. Treats can be useful in several ways. You can use food as a lure when you're teaching your cat a new trick or as a reward for doing what’s asked. Treats offered throughout a training session help to keep your cat motivated and focused. You can use your cat’s regular kibble or opt for something extra special like water-packed canned tuna or a small amount of canned cat food. Offer a small bite, about the size of a pea, or a lick from a plastic spoon.
Toys. Just like a favorite food, a beloved toy can be used to help keep your cat more focused and motivated. Wand and feather toys can be ideal for leading or luring a cat toward or away from something; at the same time — they provide a play reward for your cat, which helps keep training fun for her.
Cat mat. It’s important to teach your cat to go to her spot, but she will need a spot to go to. This can be something simple like a mat or bed or something more elaborate like a specific shelf or climbing structure. You can purchase a cat bed or use what you have at home. Whatever you choose, make sure it has an anti-slip bottom — a rubber rug backing works well under a bed or mat.
Crate or carrier. Teaching your cat to willingly get in her crate makes for lower-stress travel and temporary confinement. Ideally, opt for a carrier with at least two exits and a removable top to allow for easier access, particularly during veterinary visits. Hard-sided and soft-sided options are available; your choice will depend on your needs and your cat’s preferences.
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