Is it possible to train a cat?

by Kira Garrett | January 21, 2014

“That’s like herding cats” is an old phrase used to describe a particularly difficult or unwieldy task. Cats definitely have a reputation as being more independent and unconcerned about listening to the “rules”, compared to their canine counterparts. But as plenty of cat owners have learned, it really is possible to train a cat – even if you can’t herd a whole group of them.

Cats’ reputation for independence is often tied to their intelligence – they know what you’re saying, but they just don’t care to comply. (It also likely has something to do with the fact that cats were domesticated far later than dogs, mainly for use as around the house as rodent hunters.) But that intelligence means that your cat can work with you and learn some commands. In fact, some owners have gone so far as to train their cats to use toilets, rather than litterboxes!

If you want to train your cat, here are a few techniques and things to keep in mind:

·       Positive reinforcement is a must. Most animals respond best to positive training methods and cats are no exception. But negative reinforcement of any kind is likely to be even more detrimental in cat training efforts. Some owners find that reinforcement with treats works best, while others opt for clicker training – and some use both. If you have dogs as well, you can even

·       Basic commands are the best starting place. Work with the conditioning that your cat already has. She likely comes to you when it’s dinner time and might already answer to her name. If that’s the case, start with the “come” command. A natural progression would be to the “stay” command and then other simple concepts like “sit” or “down.”

·       Pay attention to habits that could be turned into commands. Does your cat often raise her paw up when she’s at your feet, trying to get attention? Does she bring toys to you? Why not turn those natural behaviors into a trick or two? Some cats will learn to do things like fetch and give high fives on command.