As you know, once a month I invite my favorite trainer, Suzy The Dog Training Lady, to guest blog on pet behavior and training. Here is her fabulous post on how to train your cat using Clicker Training.
Clicker Training for your CAT – yes your Cat.
Hi everyone, Suzanne your favorite dog trainer here to work on some fun cat training. Yes you read that right Cat Training. I learned this technique through dog training and when I found out how well it can work for cats too, I just had to share it.
Cats are very intelligent creatures and you can really take this training to a whole new level. Right now I would just like to get you started and comfortable with the process. If you are interested in learning more, let Rachel know and I will be happy to do additional cat training posts.
Cats aren’t the lazy animals we think they are. They enjoy play, mental stimulation, and they have a natural prey instinct. When you have an indoor cat and they don’t have enough play time and stimulation they are likely to start digging up your plants, clawing up your furniture, or maybe you found the whole role of toilet paper on the floor. Behaviors that you don’t like start happening. Why, your cat is bored, they need play; they need toys, and mental stimulation. Clicker training can do all this and more.
What exactly is clicker training?
Clicker training is operant conditioning, it aids in shaping the behaviors you want from your cat. It is a way to “mark” a behavior that you like. You mark this behavior with a click and a treat.
For those of you that are not familiar with a clicker, it is a small plastic device that makes a distinct clicking sound when pressed. You can also find a clicking device that is attached to a target stick.
The first picture is a regular clicker. The second image is one with a telescopic target stick attached.
Why clicker training?
Clicker training is a form of communication and it can be fun for you and your cat. Have you ever wanted your cat to come when called? Do you think that command is just for dogs? Nope, you can get your cat to come through clicker training. How convenient would that be on moving day when your cat goes hiding under the bed? It works similar to the sound of the can opener. How fast does your cat run when that can opener sound is heard? That is a learned behavior; your cat knows that the sound of the can opener is going to bring good things. You can achieve the same results with clicker training.
Who benefits from clicker training?
You, your cat, your family, and friends will all benefit from clicker training. You can “mark” those cute things they do, stop unwanted behavior and much more. I have provide a couple of short videos with this post so you can see some fun things you can do and it will help you understand what you can do with this kind of training. After that you can use your imagination and believe it or not, once your cat gets the hang of this, your cat will come up with ideas too.
They are going to give you the “hey look what I’m doing” look because this will become fun for them. Your cat benefits from the mental stimulation, play time with you, and your cat will be healthier and happier for it. Your friends and family will enjoy the fact of a very social cat that is well behaved.
How do I begin clicker training?
First and foremost, remember this is a cat. Cats can be finicky, so bring your patience, and take time to practice.
1. Have a hungry cat. If you free feed be sure to pick the food up for a couple of hours before attempting training.
2. Have a clicker. If you don’t have a clicker handy a baby food jar top will work, or even a click pen. You are looking for that distinct click sound. You can even learn to make that sound yourself. It’s the sound you hear people use for horses. You may want to practice this sound just in case. Whenever you see a behavior you like that your cat is doing you need to “mark” it with the click sound. If you don’t do this at the exact moment of the behavior, the cat won’t know what you are “marking” and if you don’t have your clicker handy the sound you make will work.
3. Prepare about 15 to 20 pea size treats for your training session. White chicken meat and Tuna are great treats, but you know what your cat likes best. What you are looking for in a treat is something that can give immediate reward. If you are concerned about weight, be sure to count these treat calories as part of their total daily intake.
4. If you have multiple cats – make sure you work with them one at a time. Go into a separate room with the cat you are training. You can become the cat herder later when they all have learned. Keep in mind the younger your cat, the easier this will be. An older cat may take a little longer to train.
5. Charge up your clicker. Charging up the clicker is done by sitting with your cat, somewhere comfortable; allow them to smell the treat and begin. Simply click and treat, click and treat, do this about 5 times. This helps the cat identify the click sound with the “deal” of a good treat. With cats its not so much training as it is “let’s make a deal”. I’ll do something for you if you give me a yummy treat. If you have a cat that is startled by the clicker sound, use a towel or duck tape to muffle the sound slightly so as not to frighten them.
6. Have a target. A target can be your finger, a pencil (not sharpened or course), or a stick, when your cat’s nose touches the target, click, and treat.
7. Move the target a couple of inches further away and repeat. The second time you want your cat to have to make a step or two in the direction of the target. Cats are naturally curious so they will go towards the target. Also, rub the target with the treat; the scent will help them be attracted to it.
8. After a couple of days, you can move the target to the couch, (only if this is something you allow your cat to do), and get them to jump up on the couch. You can do this for a chair, table, and even your lap.
That is really all there is to get started clicker training your cat. If you find this really fun, there are some great books that will take the training to the next level and show you how to capture behaviors and shape behaviors. You will see this in the videos.
Keep these sessions short 4 to 5 minutes twice a day: this will be more than enough to get your started. Most cats will not have the attention span for longer than that and we don’t want them to get bored with the training. You also want to stop the session while they are still interested.
Keep notes on your sessions, you may not think you are getting any progress, but if you keep notes, such as what you are targeting and how many click in the session. When you go back and look at your notes you will see you have made progress.
Always put your target stick away after a training session, if you cat sees it and goes over and touches it or swats it he will be expecting a treat. If your not there to provide one, he will think he has been fooled and this may deter your training.
So to sum it up:
Have a hungry cat
Have a clicker
Prepare your treats
Train one cat at a time
Charge up your clicker
Have a target
Touching the target with the nose gets a click and a treat
Move your target for additional challenge
Remember make this a fun and social time for you and your cat. This will help you have a happy, health, and well-adjusted cat that thinks he has you trained.
Watch the video’s below to help you get the idea of just what you can do with this training.
Cat Clicker Training! – Bear Demos Targeting Trainer’s Hand
Smokey Joe the Cat Demonstrates Clicker Training
Until next time,
Suzanne Dean, ABCDT
I want to once again thank Suzy for taking the time to bring us such valuable information. Please be sure to check out her blog for more training information, and please check out her ebook on Amazon.
Will you be trying these techniques with your cat?