Clicker training sets up a contract between you and the cat: if they do certain things, they get a click then a treat. Cat translation: If I do certain things, I can train my human to give me treats…Sweet!
TWO CLICKER RULES:
1. The click marks the behavior, telling them exactly what you’re paying for. But remember: it also stops the behavior.
2. If you click, you must treat. That’s the contract, even if you click at the wrong time.
FIND THE RIGHT TREAT
Make sure the treat is something your cat absolutely loves. Try:
- your cat’s favorite wet food, fed on a spoon
- chicken or turkey baby food (Beechnut is best–no cornstarch), fed on a spoon
- bits of cooked chicken or fish
- tuna jerky
- bonito flakes
- freeze dried meat
- commercial treats, broken into small bits
- bits of cheese
- bits of toasted nori seaweed
Train in several small sessions. Cat tummies are usually smaller than dogs and they lose interest when full.
FIND THE RIGHT CLICKER:
Most cats prefer a softer clicker, like an I-click. Or just use your mouth to make a clicking sound.
CHARGE THE CLICKER Feed the cat the treat 8-10 times while clicking while the cat is eating (Click/Treat or C/T).
TARGET Hold a stick in front of the cat and wait for it to touch the stick. C/T the second you have nose to stick contact. Repeat, moving the stick around for the cat to touch.
Once the cat is touching 80% of the time, start saying Touch right before the cat touches. That adds a verbal command to the behavior.
COME Teach your cat to come to his or her name.
Starting from a foot or so away, say your cat’s name and get his or her attention by patting the floor or your leg (NOT by clicking, as that ruins the power of the click to mark the behavior).
When your cat turns toward you, click and treat. Repeat this until your cat is coming directly in front of you, clicking exactly when that happens.
THE COME GAME Set the cat between you and a partner, also with treats. Take turns saying his or her name, rewarding when the cat gets right in front of either of you. Gradually add distance and you will have a cat trained to come to his or her name!
SIT When your cat is following you around, anticipating your training, stand still. Your cat should naturally sit down to wait for you.
The second the cat’s rear is flat on the ground, CLICK and treat. Toss the treat away from the cat so it has to move to get the treat. Repeat, moving around the room.
Make sure the cat’s rear is flat on the ground. If you click when it is partway down, you could end up with a squatting cat!
From here, you can move to other behaviors like Sit Pretty, High Five and Go to Mat.
You’ve just learned how to both capture and shape other behaviors. Both these behaviors are the foundation for many more. Find out more here or grab yourself a book on Clicker Training cats and let the games begin!
Here are more helpful how-tos:
Clicker Play for Cats