How To Clicker Train A Cat

By Sarah Jeanne Terry

While we normally think of training as something we use on dogs, cats can actually benefit from training as well. Cats might not be a social as dogs or as desperate for our affection, but they're still very smart animals that will learn tricks for treats.

A little training can help your cat when you need them to come at a certain point or to sit. One of the best ways to train your cat is by using a clicker and a target stick. The clicker teaches the cat what behaviors to repeat. And the target shows your cat what you want them to do. You might actually be surprised how much you can train your cat to do once you start.

It's easy to get started clicker training your cat, and we've put together some simple steps to help get you started.

What you need:

  • Clicker
  • Treat or special food your cat loves
  • Target stick

NOTE: You can even find target sticks that also have a clicker on them like this one.

How To Clicker Train A Cat
credit: Amazon

Step 1: Charge the clicker.

Cat treat time
credit: EmilySkeels/iStock/GettyImages

You need to first show your cat that the clicker sound equals treats. You can do this by "charging the clicker." Grab a few treats in your hand, click, then immediately give your kitty a treat. Repeat this 5-7 times to reinforce that the clicking sound equals a treat.

Step 2: Start your training with a simple target.

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Cats haven't been as socialized to obey human orders, so training your cat is more about observing behaviors you want and rewarding them. You can do this with a target stick, which you can find at pet stores or online. The target at the end of the stick is bright and will attract the cat's attention.

Start small by wiggling the target, then click and reward the cat for any movement toward the target, even just glancing toward it. Say "touch" and your cat will soon learn that sniffing at the target gets them a treat. Once your cat starts to get that, you can move on with the target to more elaborate tricks.

Step 3: Target the thing you want your cat to do.

Once your cat realizes that following the target gets them a click and a treat, you can make your cat follow the target. Once your cat is willing to get up to move to follow it, you know you're going in the right direction.

Step 4: Teach your cat to sit on command.

Side view of a Maine coon sitting isolated on white
credit: GlobalP/iStock/GettyImages

Now, you can start to get some tricks using the system. Hold the target right above your kitty's head, and say "sit." The position of the target should naturally lead your cat into a seated position. As soon as their butt touches down, click and reward it.

Step 5: Use the clicker and target to train other commands that you want your cat to learn.

Some owners get REALLY creative.

A few things to keep in mind when training your cat.

  • Keep training sessions short. Cats get anxious and tired of training quickly, so keep sessions to only a few minutes, so your cat stays focused.
  • Be patient. As we know, you can't force your cat to do anything. So just keep making gradual progress until they do what you want.
  • Only click once. If you click more than once for a desired behavior, your cat might get confused.
  • Don't push or move your cat into the desired position. You want your cat to learn to do things on its own, so you have to let it do them.
  • Never punish your cat. Even if your cat isn't getting it, you want to keep the atmosphere positive. Punishing your cat can create negative associations with the target and the clicker, which is never good.
  • If your cat blows you off in favor of doing something else, don't get upset. Just try again later.

But believe us, if you follow these simple steps, you'll be amazed what you can teach your fabulous feline to do!