What are the best treats for clicker training cats?

What are the best treats for clicker training cats?

Every Cat School student wants to know which food reward is best for clicker training their cat. The answer is: there isn't one.

At any given time, if you look inside my treat pouch, you will see a variety of treats. The food I use to teach my cat tricks is different from the treats I use to help him accept nail trims. The reward that I use indoors in a quiet room is different than the one I use outdoors when there are multiple distractions.

How will you know which food reward to use for a given situation? Start by understanding that there are high-value and low-value treats so that you can use them strategically.

Each cat will have their preferences for rewards. Generally speaking, your cat's preferences will depend mainly on what you feed them for meals. If you are feeding your cat a processed food diet, it will be tough to find a reward that can compete — that's like feeding a child french fries and then offering a granola bar for dessert. "More french fries, please."

It's not about finding the best treats for your cat. It's about feeding the best meals.

cat treats

If we want our cats to accept a variety of rewards, we have to start by feeding them healthy, moisture-rich meals. It doesn't matter if it's organic or grain-free — dry food is not suitable as a cat's main meal. Cats need to get moisture from their diet.

Manufacturers of dry food fight to get a monopoly on your cat's taste buds. They formulate a coating on dry food to turn your cat into a "kibble addict," and your "picky" cat becomes their customer for life.

When people reach out to tell me that their cat doesn't like any treats, I can usually tell what's going on — the cat is on a dry food diet with their food left out all day.

If you leave a bowl of dry food out for your cat to pick at throughout the day, you will decrease their food motivation and make it challenging to find training rewards.

Imagine having a money tree in your backyard where you can collect a twenty-dollar bill whenever you need one. As soon as you grab that twenty, the tree grows another one. With an endless supply of money, would you be motivated to go to work? Probably not.

To build a cat's food motivation, we need to stop making their food readily available and switch to feeding small, scheduled meals – at least three small meals per day. If you are out for long hours, consider getting an automatic feeder for wet food. We also need to make sure cats eat a healthy moisture-rich diet. Once you make these adjustments, you should start to see an improvement in your cat's food motivation, and it should be easier to find food rewards for clicker training.

My Favourite Treats

When I select treats for training cats, I look at several variables:

  1. Treats should be healthy: I stay away from processed treats and stick to something with just one or a few natural ingredients.
  2. Treats should be tiny: Small rewards will help the cat stay motivated while preventing weight gain. If your cat is spending time crunching on large treats, it will slow down your training.
  3. Dry treats are easier for training: Although you can train with wet treats, I prefer to use dry food pieces. Working with dry food is easier, and you can toss treats away to increase activity.

What treats meet these criteria? For indoor training, freeze-dried treats like these are my favourite. Freeze-dried treats are healthy, dry, and you can break them into tiny pieces. Freeze-dried treats also come in different flavours (proteins).

One challenge of freeze-dried treats is that they can be quite expensive. To cut the costs, you can purchase freeze-dried cat food and break those into tiny pieces. In the meal section for cats, there is often freeze-dried food labelled “topper" that goes on top of your cat's meal to stimulate their appetite or give them healthier food. To save money, I buy a bag of the topper and use those as training rewards.

Another advantage of freeze-dried treats is that they are easy to introduce to your cat. Most cats like them, but if they are suspicious at first, try crumbling a tiny bit over their wet food.

Freeze-dried treats are perfect for most of the training I do with my cat, Jones, but when I'm working on harder behaviours, such as nail trims, vet visits, and training sessions outside amongst many distractions, I raise the bar on the tasty treats. In these situations, I worry less about health and bring out the highest value rewards. For Jones, that is usually a lickable treat like Inaba Churu Purée and Temptations. I use these treats sparingly, but they are perfect for keeping Jones motivated in challenging training scenarios.

Where Do I Start?

Focus on upgrading your cat's meals first. Implement a feeding schedule and introduce your cat to a moisture-rich diet. Once you've upgraded your cat's meals, you can use a handful of the dry food for training. Introduce some freeze-dried treats and see how your cat does.

I recommend you reserve lickable treats, like Inaba Churu puree and more processed treats, like Greenies and Temptations for the hardest behaviours.

Churu

Churu Purée Treats are excellent for working on nail trims and other grooming and handling skills.

Remember, it's not about the treats — small, scheduled moisture-rich meals are the secret to having a cat that will work for rewards.

Get Help

Many students will need extra help with building their cat's food motivation. When you join our online membership you will find a comprehensive section on overcoming food challenges. You can also post for help and read our forum of other student's experiences. While food challenges can be hard to overcome, it is well worth it to start this journey. The result is a happier, healthier cat that benefits from the enrichment of clicker training.

Join the Cat School Community

Ready to have more fun with your cat? Our training kit is full of fun and practical behaviours you can teach your cat. Get the training tools shipped to your door and immediately enter the online classroom and start working with your cat. In the interactive class, you can ask questions and even get feedback on your training. Join our community of cat lovers and become a #catschoolstudent

Step 1: Get Your Cat Training Tools

Clicker training and leash walking tools to start your training journey.

I Need My School Supplies
Step 2: Join The Online Platform

Unlimited access to our training courses. Support from a certified cat trainer included.

My Cat is Ready for School

*Buy a membership with our Cat Training Tools or Leash Walking Kit and get access to the platform for 30 days for only $1

FAQs

For a monthly fee, you'll gain access to courses, community & support. Courses cover a variety of topics:

An introduction to training covering how cats learn, developing food motivation in your cat and how clicker training worksFoundation skills that every cat needs to knowTraining with multiple catsTricksHarness trainingLeash walkingTrimming nailsSolving various problem behaviours

Community-wise, you can post updates, support other community members, and receive feedback on your training from Julie the Cat Teacher, an accredited animal trainer who provides one-on-one support as you work through your courses. Cat School is here to see you & your cat succeed! 

You will be billed once a month on the date that you initially signed up.

Every customer who places a subscription order can view and edit their subscription at their customer portal. This is accessed through a link contained in every subscription email. 

Before being billed, you'll receive an email alerting you to the upcoming charge, as well as an email after you've been billed to confirm.

You can cancel your subscription at any time by clicking on the link contained in your billing email and cancelling through your customer portal.

Once you purchase the membership, you'll receive an email with instructions on creating your account (a one-time process). Once your account is created, you can log in at http://cat-school.mn.co

No, access to all the courses is included in the monthly subscription fee. This allows Cat School students to maximize what they can train at once. 

Yes, one of the perks of our platform is that it allows for easy updates, including the option to be notified when new content is added. 

You bet! Cat School runs through Mighty Networks, which delivers the content through both iOS and Android. 

The course is set up with a focus on community, so you can post your questions in the course and get a prompt response from the Cat Teacher. We prefer questions to remain in the course so all students can benefit - if you have a question, it's likely someone else does too! 

Absolutely, check out this video to see an example of what the membership looks like. Cat School Membership

Curious as a cat? Our online membership has no contract, so If you decide it's not for you - no problem! Just cancel your subscription before the 30 days are up. After 30 days, your credit card will automatically be charged the monthly subscription of $25 USD.

Meet Your Teachers

I'm Julie, the cat teacher, and this is my assistant, Jones. Our goal is to create cat training tutorials that are fun and easy for EVERY cat to learn. Thousands of students have learned from our clicker training lessons and proven that not only are cats trainable but that they love the enrichment and activity that training provides. We can't wait to see you show off all the skills and tricks your cat learns at Cat School.

Julie Posluns, Applied Animal Behaviourist (ACAAB)

Amazon Affiliate: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you follow product links from this blog. 

Search