Train Your Cat Like a Pro

Most people don’t realize that cats can be trained. They think it just can’t happen. But cats are very curious and intelligent critters -- they’re always interested in knowing what’s going on, and it’s surprising how quickly they pick up on things.

Now, if the cat has a more energetic personality, she might lift her two front paws up and do what is called a “sit up” or a “beg up” because she has more energy. Owners first need to figure out what type of personality their cat has. Some cats have a more relaxed personality, while other cats are very energetic and have a high-energy personality. Once you figure that out, you can begin the process of training.

A cat can be trained to do almost all the behaviors a dog can do: sit, lay down and come when her name is called.

Sitting is an easy behavior to start with. If you have a cat that has a relaxed personality, you can pick one of her favorite treats and hold it right above her nose. Being curious, your cat will lift her head up to see what you have. When your cat smells the treat and lifts her head, bringing the treat back a little bit further will throw the cat’s body off into the sit position.

As soon as she sits, reward her with the treat and tell her how good she is.

Now, if the cat has a more energetic personality, she might lift her two front paws up and do what is called a “sit up” or a “beg up” because she has more energy.

Cats can be trained visually and verbally. I do visual and verbal training at the same time. As you’re holding that treat above her head, say “sit” at the same time. Your hand is also giving her the visual cue of what to do.

The most important thing about training is to make it a game -- and you always want to make the game fun! If the game is fun, the animal always wants to play. So keep the sessions short, and quit before the game becomes boring. That way, when it’s time to do it again, that cat is going to remember that the game is fun and want to participate.

Best Time to Train?

Usually, you’ll have more of your cat’s attention right around mealtime. Another good time to train is when you come home and your cat comes to greet you. The double benefit is that it’s a good way to spend some quality time with your cat, because you’re stimulating her mentally.

Less at Mealtime If She’s Been Getting Extra Treats for Training?

Figure out how much food your cat’s regular meal contains, then take a measured portion away to save for training. That way your cat works for her meal and you won’t create an overweight cat.

When I’m working with Morris, I know his meal weight. Because of what I do, I keep him weighed in and figure out what’s too much and what is not enough. This may change with the change of the seasons -- sometimes cats have less of an appetite in a hotter climate, so if you’re giving your cat the same meal, she may bulk up. Remember to take away a little bit of your cat’s usual portion and put it aside for your play/training sessions.

What Are Training No-No’s?

Never hit your animal. Then you’re just making your hand seem negative.

Training is learning. It may take one animal longer to learn something than another. So when you’re training your animal, realize that it’s all patience, consistency and fun -- fun for you as well as your pet.

If the animal doesn’t understand the command right away, and if you feel yourself getting a little frustrated, quit. Try it another day.

Also, I don’t say “no” to the animal right away. If she doesn’t pick up the behavior quickly, I’ll say “ah, ah.” That allows her the time to think, “Okay, that was not correct -- let me try again.”

When you say “no” right away, the animal thinks, “Oh no, what did I do?” and then shuts down. That is not what you’re looking for because that is not making the game fun. But by just saying “ah, ah,” the animal understands that she didn’t do it properly, and by not doing it properly will not get her treat. It gives her the time to think. And you will see the gears turn. Work with that and be patient.

Animals read our body tones, and they also read our vocal tones. Often, when angry at your animal, you may say, “What did you do?” You -- with eyebrows down, eyes squinted, teeth tight and hands on hips -- may think that the animal knows she did something wrong. But that is not necessarily true. The animal is recognizing vocal tones and body gestures. The same goes for when you are happy. You have your arms open and your voice up, and the animal understands these gestures and responds accordingly. Training simply becomes what the animal understands.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way -- this is a learning procedure for you both.

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