Cat spinning
You know your cat is a star — and it’s time to prove it to the world. Trick training can be a simple way to show off your cat’s innate talents and inner genius, but it has other benefits as well. Working with your cat to master a trick can help to strengthen the bond you share with your feline, and that’s a win for everyone.

"Spin” is one of my favorite first tricks to teach interested cats. In a spin, your cat stands on her hind legs and turns her body in a circle. Cats who will willingly follow a target or lure are the most likely to learn to spin easily. If your cat has not already been taught to follow a hand or target, you can use a lure instead. Use a food your cat enjoys as a lure, such as a small spoonful of soft cat food or a treat or catnip held in your hand.

If you and your cat are ready to pounce on the challenge, here’s a step-by-step guide to teaching the "spin."

Ready, Set, Spin!

Start by getting your cat to willingly turn and follow the lure. At first, this may be only a slight head or neck turn or one step toward the lure. When she does this, mark with a click or word of praise and reward her with a tasty treat. Once she is readily following the lure with her head, move it to the side so she needs to turn her body to reach it. If she backs up instead of turning, move the lure forward again and go back to rewarding slight head turns to the side. This will teach her that the wanted behavior is turning, not backing up.

Once she’s following the lure and turning, teach her to complete the circle — in other words, to turn 360 degrees and end facing you again where she started. Go slowly: Start with a quarter turn, then half, then three quarters. Use the lure to guide her through the entire turn and offer multiple treats during each attempt (rather than just treating her when she’s made the whole turn). The goal, of course, is to get your cat to follow the lure all the way around the circle before receiving her reward.

Once she is successfully turning in a circle, raise the lure above her head so that she’s standing on two feet rather than four. Work on completing the circle from this position. Keep in mind, though, that it may take multiple training sessions for her to put all the pieces together. Be patient and go at a pace that is comfortable for your cat.

When your cat is confidently following the lure through a full turn, begin to slowly fade the lure. To do this, use the lure to guide your cat through the spin, but instead of rewarding her with the actual lure, offer her a treat from your other hand (the one that is not holding the lure). This helps to reduce her reliance on seeing the treat as part of the trick.

At the same time, work on making the gesture you use to guide her through the spin smaller and smaller — so instead of moving your lure hand in a wide circle, hold your hand up slightly higher above her head and make a smaller circle. Your goal is to reach a point where your cat responds to a small gesture of your hand with a full spin.

Add a Cue

Another alternative is to teach your cat to follow a verbal cue. Feel free to be creative in your choice of cue (I like “spin cycle” for this trick), but be sure that everyone who interacts with your cat uses the same cue. To teach the cue, say the chosen word or phrase – “spin cycle” – and immediately follow with the hand gesture you are using to lead your cat through the spin. The goal is for your cat to begin turning when she hears the cue, rather than waiting for the gesture.

Once you have introduced the verbal cue, increase the time between saying the word/phrase and making the gesture — for example, give the verbal cue “spin cycle” and then wait two seconds before prompting with a physical cue. Reducing the size of the physical gesture can also help to increase reliance upon the word/phrase rather than hand movement.

Once your cat is readily turning in response to the cue, practice her trick in new environments, like another room. You can also begin to add distractions, such as the television or another person in the room.

Train at a pace that is comfortable for your cat, and keep in mind that felines learn best in short, frequent sessions — between 30 seconds and five minutes, a few times a day. While you are training, offer frequent rewards to keep your cat interested and motivated. Finally, train prior to mealtimes when your cat is more likely to be active and willing to work for rewards like toys and treats.

Happy training to you and your cat!

More on Vetstreet: