Cat Trick Training: What Is It and How Do I Get Started?

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Many people think that cats are untrainable, but that isn't the case! Although trick training might be more common with dogs, cats can also have fun learning and performing tricks. Cats on your favorite television shows or movies are all performing tricks, and your cat can learn to do the same thing at home!

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Supplies:

You don't need a lot of supplies to start working on cat tricks. The only thing you need to have are rewards like treats and toys that are motivating and of value to your cat. When you start working on trick training together, you will need:

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  • Cat Treats - store-bought or homemade treats that are of high value to your cat
  • Cat Toys
  • A clicker

Clicker training:

A way to help your cat quickly progress with trick training is to incorporate a clicker, which is a fun and effective way to communicate with your cat. Clickers can help cats to grasp the trick training concepts more quickly. Clicker training is effective because it allows us to clearly mark specific motions or behaviors so cats can understand what we want from them.

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Earning titles for trick cats:

For cats and cat owners who get really into cat training, it's possible to earn trick titles at home via video submission with your cat! The organization Do More With Your Dog despite the name, allows animals of any species to earn trick titles. Cats can earn official trick titles, ribbons and title certificates from novice to grand champion levels.

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Cat training tips:

When you're working on trick training with your cat, you'll want to keep your training sessions short and fun. Long training sessions of drilling the same skills over and over have a tendency to make cats lose interest in the training process. Be sure to watch your cat's behavior for any signs of stress, or if they seem disinterested in the activity. This is a sign you need to slow down your training or give your cat a break from the tricks.

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Getting started:

There are no limits to the number of tricks you can teach cats. Though with patience, practice, positive reinforcement, and the right rewards! Cats can learn all kinds of impressive tricks from jumping into your arms, retrieving items, and going over jumps. Here are a couple of easy tricks to get your cat started on their trick training journey!

How to teach your cat to high five:

With this trick, you and your cat can high five on the couch when your favorite team scores, or when your dinner delivery arrives!

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Step 1:​ With your cat in front of you, take a treat or small toy, and show it to your cat. Then, close your fist around the treat or toy.

Step 2:​ Your cat will likely be curious about the treat and try to figure out how to get to it. Ignore your cat if they nuzzle or lick at your hand. Wait for your cat to reach up and try to paw at your hand.

Step 3:​ As soon as your cat paws at your hand, click (if you are clicker training), praise, and open your hand to let your cat get their treat.

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Step 4:​ Repeat this several times and your cat will quickly begin to paw at your hand when you hold it up. At this stage, you can introduce a verbal cue of your choice like, "paw" or "high five" when your cat's paw makes contact with your hand.

Step 5:​ When your cat is constantly pawing at your hand with a treat inside, you can start to phase out having it in your hand. Start by making a fist as though you have a treat. Praise and give your cat an actual treat when they "high-five" your empty fist. Then, you can try holding your hand out without making a fist. When your cat raises their paw to touch you, click, praise and treat them.

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How to teach your cat to spin:

For this trick, your cat will learn to spin in a circle on cue!

Step 1:​ Get your cat's attention with a treat. While your cat is focused on the treat, slowly move your hand in a circular motion.

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Step 2:​ When your cat follows the treat in the circular motion, click, praise and give your cat the treat.

Step 3:​ Repeat luring your cat with a treat in a circle several times. When your cat is consistently following the lure, you can begin to introduce your verbal cue of choice like "spin," "twist," or "circle." Don't forget to treat your cat after each repetition!

Step 4:​ After several practice sessions, your cat will consistently be following the treat in a circle. You can start to slowly fade out having to lure them, and start to move your hand in a smaller circle as a cue accompanied by your verbal cue. When your cat spins in a circle click, praise and treat!

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Cat trick training is a great way for cat owners to bond. Training also provides cats with physical and mental enrichment. If your cat hasn't been getting enough exercise, start by incorporating trick training into their regular routine!

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