cat in a box
Nefertiti loves a good box, whether or not she is being rewarded.

Most of us focus most of our training attention on our dogs. I do this just as much as others. I balance talking about training my dog with discussing cute things my cat does: sit in boxes; climb on my shoulders—sometimes while I am trying to brush my teeth; sit on my hands while I’m typing.

But in doing this, I am selling my cat short, and you may be doing the same to yours. Cats, like most animals, are perfectly capable of being trained to do a number of things. Since most of us have cats that are smaller—and quieter!—than our dogs, we are often able to ignore a great deal more of their obnoxious behaviors. But I encourage you to pull our your clicker and treats with your cat in mind. I would guess that you would be shocked at how much your cat can be trained to do. That old adage that you can’t train a cat is just not true. Instead, every time I start training my cat, I am reminded of all the amazing things that she can do, and—even better—that she can learn to do on cue.

Periodically, people will ask me what tricks I have for training cats. I have a few:

  • Use a clicker. Clickers help dogs focus in on what they have been asked to do, but I have been very successful using a verbal marker, or no marker at all to train a dog. Cats are different. They are less attuned to our voices. Verbal markers are almost useless. Save yourself time and use a clicker.
  • Try to use your cat’s natural affinities in your training. Like most cats, Nefertiti loves boxes. So teaching her to get into a box on cue was easy and fast.

  • If you aren’t willing or able to use your cat’s natural affinities, then this is especially important. Be patient. When we got tired of Nefertiti sticking her head into the food bowl as we poured the food, we decided to teach her to sit and wait for the food bowl (she already knew how to sit). It worked like a charm. Except that training that would probably have taken one or two days with most dogs took a couple of months.

Ok, your challenge is set. What amazing thing are you going to teach your cat to do?

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