What is clicker training?
Clicker training is teaching a cat new skills using a small tool, called a clicker. The clicker is called such because it makes a click sound when the button is pressed. You follow up the click with a food reward, something like their kibble or a cat treat, and your cat learns the clicking sound means they did something right and that a treat is on the way.
I thought cats were untrainable! Why would you use clicker training for cats?
Not only is it possible to clicker train a cat, it's a fun way to spend time with your cat. Because of their size and agility, cats are perfect candidates for teaching the coolest tricks. Try getting a 70-lb golden retriever to sit on your back or jump through your arms, and you'll start to see the appeal of working with our perfectly-sized feline companions.
It also helps you better communicate with your cat as the sound of the click captures the exact moment your cat does a behaviour you want to reward, so there's less confusion in training your cat.
Beyond fun behaviors, there are lots of practical benefits for training your cat. Here are my top ten:
1. Clicker training increases their physical activityIt's no secret that many indoor cats don't get enough exercise. Clicker training is an easy way to get your cat to start moving by putting aside a few minutes in every day for training sessions. Grab your target stick and point to the top of your cat tree, or scratching post. As soon as your cat jumps up, click and toss a small treat across the room. By teaching your cat to jump on, off and over objects, you can work towards creating a cat agility course.
2. Clicker training works your cat's brain
Just like humans need to keep their minds sharp, so do our cats. Because indoor cats don't have to hunt for their food, rather eating their cat food from a bowl, they have little opportunity to strategize and problem-solve as wild animals do. Clicker training is an excellent brain game and helps with mental stimulation.
3. Clicker train to help your cat have a more restful sleep
We all sleep better after a hard day at work, but what about our cats? A dull day leads to a hyper, meowing cat in the middle of the night. Unlike playtime, which can get your cat more aroused, training helps wind your cat down. Training in the evening will give your cat a bedtime snack and tire them out so they will be ready for a restful sleep. Simple training games will help your cat sleep through the night so you can avoid those early wake-up calls.
4. Clicker training helps overcome boredom
It can be a long, dull day for indoor cats. Clicker training breaks up the monotony of the day with a fun and engaging activity. Your cat will appreciate the extra attention and enrichment and you can teach them new tricks at the same time.
5. Clicker train to teach your cat practical behaviors
Going into a cat carrier, sitting and waiting at a spot while you prepare their meal, and preventing door dashing are a few of the skills you can teach your cat with clicker training.
6. Clicker training strengthens the cat-human bond
Because clicker training is founded on positive reinforcement, meaning you reward the behaviors you want to see your cat do more often, it will strength your bond. Training together will change the dynamic of your relationship from roommates to teammates. Watch your furry team member get smarter while you become a better trainer as you learn how to communicate with one another.
7. Clicker training solves problem behaviour
To change unwanted behaviors like jumping on the counter or door-dashing, we need to teach them what we want them to do instead. Usually, that means to stay at a "parking spot" while the door opens or while you are cooking. Foundation training is the first step to a cat that is attentive and responsive. Solving problem behavior is simple once you have a cat that listens to you and knows the basics.
8. Clicker train tricks to entertain friends and teach your cat strangers are fun
Party tricks are fun and will get your cat interacting with other people. Giving fist bumps to friends will make everyone's heart melt. If your cat is fearful of friends that come over, clicker training is an excellent ice breaker to help your cat learn that strangers also come with tasty treats.
9. Clicker training helps cats overcome fears and build confidence
You can use your cat's favorite treat to reward and increase courage. You can also use food to make positive associations with objects and people. Clicker training allows you to introduce your cat to new challenges slowly and respectfully building their confidence one click/treat at a time.
10. Clicker training will make your cat happier
Watch your cat's behavior change as they purr through their training session and become a happy, well-adjusted kitty. The time you spend learning together will be the highlight of your cat's day.
Clicker training for cats is a worthwhile investment. It can help change what is perceived as "bad behavior" to a desired behavior, it can make your feline friend's day more exciting, and it can improve your relationship. In Cat School, I specialize in clicker training for cats, working with cat owners to understand animal behavior as well as teach fun tricks, like high five! If you've never clicker trained a cat before - don't worry! Cat School is for all levels and experience.