Cat Training

What's that you say? You say you can't train cats? Well, obviously, you haven't met my cats.

I started training cats back when I had my first cat. I was probably eight or nine. I had a black cat named Matilda. I found my mom's dog training book, and taught Matilda how to sit using the method described in the book for teaching dogs. She did it every time I asked her, but I never tried to teach her anything else.

When we got Tin Tin, I decided I'd train him to do stuff as well. Tin Tin will sit and stay on command. I haven't had any luck getting him to lay down. But, he's a very smart cat. He knows that water comes out of the facet in the tub, and he knows that to turn it on involves more than just tapping it. So, if he's in the tub and one of his humans is near enough and he wants a drink, he'll tap the human's hand and then tap the facet, as if saying, "You put your hand on that and make it come on. Thank you." Because he is so smart, there are things he has picked up on without being taught.

Shadow, though, as sweet as she is, wasn't blessed with Tin Tin's cognitive skills. She's figured out that if a person is sitting and they pat their leg, she's supposed to get on their lap. I can't get her to sit or do anything else. She is, however, an excellent hunter and keeps our mouse population very, very low.

I'm still teaching Delilah. I've taught her to sit and stay. She's better at sitting than Tin Tin, but he's better at staying. I've also taught her "up" and "down". I'm planning on teaching her other tricks too, but that's all she knows right now.

How do I do it? Mostly the same way I train my dogs--with positive reinforcement. But, since cats aren't as eager to please their humans as dogs are, it takes a bit more work and it works better if you can teach them to do something they already do. I teach "sit" exactly the same for dogs and cats, but other things, like "stay", have to be taught when the cat is already doing it, at least initially. When I taught Delilah "up" and "down", I took a treat and she followed the treat. Now, I can get her to do it without a treat. The "down" command works very well when she gets up on something I don't want her on.


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