I’m not saying you can train your cat to balance treats on her nose or roll over (let us know if you do this, however!). Keep in mind that your cat is not a dog. Even the most dog-like cat is still not a dog, so don’t compare a cat’s willingness to please you with that of a dog. Apples and oranges, people. But it is possible to curb your cat’s unwanted behavior and even perform a bit.
Training your cat will be a lot easier if you tap into his natural instinct. For example, cats bury their waste, so litter boxes appeal to cats.
Some cats exhibit a high prey drive. These kitties may be interested in fetching if they learn that bringing the toy back enhances the game. Wait until you find your cat sitting near a toy, looking up, and waiting to play. Toss the toy. Once he picks it up, offer the treat. If he brings the toy back, give the treat and then immediately throw the toy again. Soon, he’ll figure out that returning the toy to you offers results he likes.
Fetching helps the game continue; however, shaking hands doesn’t offer any benefits. That’s why you need to build in a benefit–an ear scratch or tiny treat such as a crumble of bacon. Wait until your cat is sitting upright. Pick up his paw and gently shake it while saying “shake” in a pleasant tone. Then release the paw and offer the treat. Repeat the exercise a few times per session and complete a training session daily. In time, he’ll offer his paw when you say “shake” and you can gradually reduce proffered treats.
To teach your cat to speak, you’ll need to catch him in the act. Say “speak” (again, in a pleasant tone) and use a hand signal also. Offer a treat with each success. By using the hand signal, you can carry on “conversations” with your cat by using only the signal. Training with both the command and the signal help direct the cat’s attention to you.
With any animal training, you’ll find better success if you conduct sessions when your cat is rested and fed before starting. Sleep or hungry cats make poor pupils. Play into activities your cat already likes. For example, cats who hate having their paws handled likely won’t enjoy shaking hands with you. Shorter, more frequent sessions work better than longer and occasional sessions. With patience, you can teach your cat these and more tricks.
by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
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