Clicker training for cats is something that I must admit was a new one on me, but after reading the following article and watching the YouTube video above I realised just how easy clicker training for cats actually is. I will be giving this a try as I think it would be a wonderful way to interact with my cats and you never know I may even get them to behave! – Ross
How to Train Your Cat Using Clicker Training
Clicker training originated in the USA to train zoo animals. It is the most fantastic method of training, giving the animal control; the control to elicit food. Although not preferable, the old methods of force and punishment can work with some dogs, but not cats, or other animals such as dolphins.
However, research shows that using reward based training works every time with animals and people, and clicker training is the best way to achieve this with your pet. The clicker is a small hand held gadget that makes a clicking sound when you press it. Basically it offers a way for you to communicate with your cat, by telling them what it has done well (the click). Once the cat learns to associate this sound with food, it knows exactly what you want and that it will be paid for doing it!
The First Step in Clicker Training
Choose a time when your cat wants your attention, and before a meal time, this is why Siamese are so easy to train, they love human company and food! Use very tiny titbits (crumb size), something your cat will sell his soul for, may be cheese. Click and feed for about eight to ten times, now your cat knows when he hears the click he will get a reward.
It is difficult to say what you should train your cat to do because often the cat isn’t going to do what you want, so work from the other angle, see what your cat will do. One of the first things I teach, which is so easy and every cat can learn, is to touch, with paw or nose let your cat decide. Use your hand to start with, hold a treat in your closed hand, and when your cat touches click and open your hand for the cat to take the treat, once you have trained the hand touch on command you can go to most other exercises.
Keep the training sessions short, although cats do not have a long attention span you can extend this by carful training, you will know when your cat has had enough, he will walk off.
Train for a couple of minutes at the most, once or twice a day, always start with something familiar, such as the hand touch. I taught my Siamese Jasmine to sit by moving my hand just above her nose and move slightly towards her. At first no command is given (or should I say request when dealing with cats!), once the cat knows how to, then put the command on, you should have your cat touching your hand straight away and on the next session put the request in and then the action.
I always use hand signals as commands, they so much easier for cats and dogs to understand. Once Jasmine was sitting on command I taught her to sit on a mat (I used a dinner mat), guiding her to this, clicking when she put her paws on it and then dropping the titbit on the mat, making it a rewarding place to be. She soon learnt to go on her mat when asked, then I put in the sit, then the wait. Using a hand signal I took one pace back keeping my hand over her, as in the sit, giving the command for wait and throwing her a titbit. Next I added a recall;, once I could move a few paces away I dropped my hand to her nose level opened it to reveal the titbit and called her name to come. This is how you can link things easily without confusing your cat.
Never try to put your cat in a position, never say NO or any other words of correction. Keep your hands off your cat as touching them will confuse them. Never get annoyed or impatient, if things aren’t going well, end the session.
Kerensa, my daughter, has trained her two Siamese lots of different things. Merlot will can shut a door and switch the kettle on by putting his paw on the button, a most useful act to teach your cat! Both cats rush to be trained when they see the clicker, but it is impossible to train two together so find a room where your Siamese has no other distractions before beginning your training.
I often have a ‘free’ training session where my cat is encouraged be creative and offer me something different. You will find your cat will go through all he has learnt on the sight of a clicker, but you are waiting something new. I will often wait patiently to see if they come up with something else, such as putting a paw on my foot, standing on hind legs to touch my hand, or meowing. You can click anything you would like to put on a command.
‘Why should I train my cat’? I hear you ask. Because it’s so much fun for both of you, Siamese love to learn and you will build a lovely partnership and understanding. Just like people cats enjoy doing something different. The best book to read if you are interested in clicker training is called “Clicker Train Your Cat” by Karen Pryor. Available from Amazon.
Sheila Hocken is a successful dog trainer, author and also breeds her beautiful Siamese cats under her prefix Hydinisy