January is designated Train Your Dog Month. Even though the perception is that it isn’t possible, with some work training cats can be successful.
Most cats come running at the sound of the treat/food bag or the can opener. According to vetstreet.com, you can train your cat to come when called.
In fact, that “Here, kitty, kitty!” phrase can be just as effective as the can opener sound. The key is building training around positive associations. A consistent cue (“Kitty, come!”) coupled with a tasty reward makes the cue worth responding to.
Step 1: Figure Out What Motivates Your Cat
Step one in training cats is figuring out their biggest motivation. For a cat, you might rustle a treat bag or initiate the whir of the can opener or even make the clinking sound of a food bowl touch the floor. You need to find certain events that cause your cat to come running to you.
Step 2: Associate Motivation With Verbal Cue
Once you determine what grabs your cat’s attention, start associating that event with a verbal cue, such as “Come” or “Here, kitty.” The verbal cue is key here, as it can eventually be used when your cat is not in your line of sight.
With enough practice, your cat should respond to the cue on his own initiative and move toward the sound of your voice when asking him to come to you.
Step 3: Give Cue Prior To Activity That Already Gets Attention
Begin by giving the cue just prior to engaging in a behavior that already captures your cat’s attention. Say, “Kitty, come!” just before opening the treat drawer.
When your cat gets to you, reward him with a treat. The reward, however, doesn’t always have to be food. It can be some play time or soft petting.
It’s important to be patient and consistent. All pets learn at a different pace, and above all else, don’t punish your cat if he doesn’t get the process on the first or second try.
Make sure the verbal cue is the same wording every time. Don’t say “here, kitty” one time, then “come kitty” another. It will make training easier and faster to stay consistent.
Keep training sessions short (no longer than 10-15 minutes) so your cat will stay engaged and not lose interest.
Step 4: Don’t Mislead Your Cat
Your cat will learn to respond to behaviors that have a fun result. What you don’t want to do is call him and then begin to trim his nails or put him in his crate, as he will then associate those actions with being called.
Step 5: Be Consistent, Reinforce Training
Once your cat has learned the command, continue to reinforce it. As with any skill, it will become rusty and eventually be forgotten if not called upon regularly.
Training cats can be done, with some patience and proper reinforcement. Dogs think they have the upper paw in this area, but cats and those of us that love them know differently!