Clicker Training for Cats

Many cat owners will tell you that you can't train a cat, but clicker training for cats changes that belief. By making training fun for your cat, you can teach him to perform many behaviors reliably, just like a dog. The younger you begin the training, the easier it will be, but any cat can be clicker trained.

Charging the Clicker

"Charging the clicker" is a common term used to describe acclimating your cat to clicker training. In order for your cat to understand that the clicker is a good thing, it must precede something your cat loves. This will make your cat eager to work for the sound of the click.

If you free-feed your cat, start picking up the food for a few hours before clicker training begins. You want your cat to be hungry. Then, pull out your cat's favorite treats, tuna or some other meaty treat and create a positive association with the clicker.

To do this, sit down with your cat, click the clicker and give your cat a treat. Repeat this a few times for a couple of sessions so that your cat comes running when he sees the clicker.

Target Training

Now it's time to make your cat work for his clicks. An easy way to transition is to use target training since batting at objects usually comes naturally to cats. Pull out a toy, wooden object or other object with which your cat will naturally interact.

When your cat shows interest in the object, click and treat. After your cat is easily following the object, start waiting for more interaction. If he sniffs, click. Finally, begin waiting for him to bat at it. Gradually increase your expectation so your cat can follow the directions. By upping the ante slowly, your cat will enjoy the game and not get frustrated.

Training Behaviors

Once your cat understands how clicker training works, you can train your cat to perform almost any behavior: sit, come when called, even playing the piano.

All behaviors are taught the same way: break the behavior down into several small behaviors and gradually expect your cat to do more to earn the click. For example, if you want to teach your cat to come on command, click each time your cat looks at you. Then, click when he moves toward you. Then, increase the number of steps your cat needs to take to get a click. Finally, click when he comes to you.

Once he can complete these behaviors easily, add a verbal command. Then, click only when your cat comes to you after hearing the command.

Behavior Problems

Behavior problems can also be reduced through clicker training. For example, if your cat is missing the litter box, follow your cat to the litter box and click for elimination in the box, making it more reward to go in the box than outside.

If your cat is afraid of people, you can sit in the living room with a guest and click as your cat enters the room. Each time, he makes a brave move, approaching the person, not fleeing when the person moves etc., he earns a click. All behavior problems can be addressed similarly.

Have Fun

Most importantly, clicker training is fun. If your cat does something adorable, click for that behavior. Soon, your cat will be offering that behavior all the time, and you can put it on command. You can also make up fun behaviors, such as knocking over a box or bringing a toy, just by waiting until your cat is playing or interacting with you.

Your only limit with clicker training is your own imagination!