How to Clicker Train Your Cat (Guest Article)
January 7, 2020
Daniel Keeling

At first attempt, it may seem like cats cannot be trained, but this is completely wrong. The problem lies in trying to train cats the same way someone would train a dog. Cats need specialized training, and that’s why we wanted to share this short guide on how to specifically train cats using a clicker.

Reward with snacks

According to the feline experts at We’re All About Cats, “Cats are not impossible to train; you simply have to find the right motivation to get your cat to do what you want her to.” You will need to have some snacks that your cat loves ready to go when you prepare to do some clicker training. Be sure to coax your cat with the treats and definitely use them whenever the cat performs appropriately. Even small steps in obedience need to be rewarded. As your cat begins to understand what you expect of her, you won’t need to use the treats as often, but they are a great way to get her through those initial steps of training. If your cat is free feeding, you should switch to scheduled feeding to make the snack training more effective.

Use a clicker with a unique sound

If you pick a clicker with a common, everyday sound that your cat is used to hearing, the training will not be very effective. Your cat can become easily confused and start to respond to those everyday noises as though you were calling her. Try to find a clicker that makes a unique sound, and while you can even use a ballpoint pen or a sound that you make, most people get better results with the distinctive sound a store-bought clicker will make.

Associate obedience with reward

It is very important that your cat becomes keyed into the sound of the clicker and pay attention to that sound. You’ll be using the clicker to initiate commands and to require obedience, so you want there to be a strong association between your cat and the clicker. Feline Culture advises to start by rewarding interest in the clicker with a treat. You can give your cat her first treat when she sniffs the clicker or responds to it by turning her head or stopping whatever she is doing.

Be sure to reward your cat as soon as she shows signs of obedience. As the training continues, you will need to reward less and less, but you will still need to reward consistently. Otherwise, you will lose your cat’s interest and the clicker will get ignored.

Reward even accidental obedient behaviour

Let’s say you want your cat to sit down when you use the clicker. Be sure to just work on one action at a time until your cat gets it down. If your cat sits just as a matter of course and not necessarily because she understood your command, then you should reward that behaviour. Be sure to reward it as soon as it occurs. Cats are smart and will pick up on whether they are doing the desired action or not. They will start to connect certain actions or simple obedience to the notion of reward.

Be patient with your cat

Keep in mind that your cat is not actively trying to resist training. Your cat simply doesn’t understand what you want in the early stages of training. You will need to have patience with the cat and take the time training each kind of action. Your cat won’t get what you are doing right away and will not understand what is expected of her, but with enough repetition and potency, you can get through that communication barrier and get your cat to respond in the way that you want her to.

Clicker training can be used for all kinds of behaviours

You don’t just have to stop the clicker training at teaching your cat how to sit, stay or come. You can also use it to keep your cat off the counter, keep your cat from getting into fights with other pets and train your cat to use the litter box. Any desired behaviour can be taught through clicker training, using snacks, patience and the other tips we have covered here.

This blog post was written by Lauretta of PawMaw, the site that connects missing pets with their rightful owners.