Everything You Need to Know About Clicker Training Your Cat
What Is a Clicker and How Do Pet Clickers Work?
We're all about pawsitive reinforcement when it comes to training your kitty - that means lots of treats & praise, and focusing on the good stuff. Instead of getting frustrated with your cat when they don't immediately take to their cat backpack or try & squirm out of their cat harness, form a good association from the beginning with the help of a clicker.
A clicker is a small, handheld tool that helps identify the desirable behavior you want your cat to perform. Use our clicker set, "The Good Kitty" Clicker Training Set & get started clicker training your cat.
The method of using a clicker is one that works particularly well for cats, since they are less "trainable" than dogs (meaning they don't respond as quickly or submissively to a voice command), unless there is something in it for them, naturally. In order to use the clicker, you simply have to push on the button to make the "click" sound exactly when your cat performs the correct behavior, and then reward them for it immediately.
What Is Clicker Training & Is Training a Cat Simple?
Cat training can be made simple by using a clicker. Clicker training is a form of obedience training that helps you identify the specific action you want your cat to perform, and communicate it with the "click" sound from the clicker. This sound works particularly well because it isn't one you use regularly, outside of training/commanding in normal daily life. Your cat is used to hearing your voice & other various sounds around the house, so the clicker is more distinct!
While there are no clear cut foolproof ways to train a cat and every kitty is different, clicker training does have the fastest results. Try to be patient, and not overwhelm your cat with lengthy training sessions all at once. Training takes time! So while it can be made into a simple part of your routine, give your cat time to learn & respond to this new method of training. With consistent training, you'll have your cat responding to basic commands & maybe even have a few adorable tricks up their paws!
Benefits of Clicker Training Your Cat:
There are many benefits to clicker training your cat. Some of these include:
Building a relationship of trust
You click & they perform, then you follow through with a treat. This repetitive process of rewarding their desirable behavior builds a trusting relationship over time.
Training your cat keeps their mind active & alert, so they are less likely to feel bored! It can also help tire them out & release extra energy.
You can do more things with your cat
Training them to hop in their cat backpack or approach the harness in your hands is a great way to help them form positive associations with going out & doing things with you. You can also teach them basic behaviors like sitting, coming when you call them, and keeping a few adorable tricks up your sleeve.
You can keep your cat safe
Train them to sit, stay close to you, or listen to voice commands like "stop", "stay", and "come".
The Process to Clicker Train Cats:
Let's dive into the basics of clicker training your cat!
Introduce Your Cat to the Clicker
When just starting off, it's important to introduce your cat to the clicker first:
- Grab a few of your cat's absolute favorite treats and sit down with them.
- Click the clicker, toss them a treat.
- Repeat a few times until your cat looks at the treat, not the clicker, when you click.
Behavior Training Sessions
Once your cat understands that a click = treat, you can move on to voicing a command, like "sit".
- Start with a treat in your hand and your clicker in the other.
- Hold the treat out infront of your cat's nose, then move it back between their ears, guiding them to a seated position.
- As soon as their floofy bottom sits on the ground, say "sit", click, & reward with the treat.
- Repeat this multiple times during this training session, while keeping the session short & sweet.
Find the perfect reward
If your cat is too eager & gobbles up the treat before you have the chance to command, try using a target stick to get him in place to follow your commands. Reward every time your cat comes to you & taps the target stick with their nose!
If treats are a good reward system for your cat, make sure to find one they really love! If the treat is a larger size, try breaking it up into bite size pieces for training purposes. Maybe they really really love a special kind of wet food - take a little pinch & use that for their reward!
If your cat doesn’t respond to food motivation, try bringing out their favorite toy for a few seconds of play as a reward!
Be patient & don't overdo it
Keep your training sessions short & to the point! We're talking like a 5-minute training session. Once your kitty loses interest in the session, it's time to move on.
Check out our friend Clementine using "The Good Kitty" Clicker Training Set to learn how to sit & paw-five!
Train Your Cat to Leash Walk with a Clicker
Clicker training cats is a great way to teach them how to walk on a leash with their cat harness. (NEVER attach your leash straight to a cat's collar, as this could pose as a risk if they tug.) Try training them to have a good association with their harness, by clicking & rewarding with a treat every time you put it on them. Do the same when you attach their leash to the harness as well.
- When there is some distance between you & your cat, get their attention by calling their name & clapping to them.
- As soon as your cat looks to you, click & reward with a treat. Do the same the moment that they move to come to you as well, letting their leash trail behind them.
- Repeat these steps a few times, until your cat is comfortable with the loose tension from the leash trailing behind them & comes to you when you call, click, and reward.
- Go through these same steps again, but this time while you are holding onto the leash lightly.
- Repeat these training sessions until your cat walks comfortably around the house while you lightly hold onto their leash. You might need to break these up into multiple training sessions to keep your cat from getting overwhelmed.
- Then take them outside to your own yard or another safe environment close by. Make sure there aren't any other dogs or animals nearby that could spook your cat & turn this into a not-so-pleasant experience!
- Slowly lengthen your walks outside starting around 5-10 min, and build up from there as your cat gets more comfortable, sticking to a familiar environment at first.
- Continue to use the clicker to train them to walk on their leash until they are totally used to it, and can walk beside you with no tension on the leash.
For more tips on training your cat to love their harness & leash, read this article.
Use a Clicker to Train Your Cat for Backpack
Clicker training cats to use their cat backpack is similar to training them to walk on a leash, in that it's all about building those positive reinforcements.
When you first get your cat backpack, unbox it with them & leave it out for them to explore - do NOT attempt to shove them inside of it first thing, they need time to investigate on their own! Check out these training tips:
Start out with positive reinforcement training
- Whenever they approach the bag on their own, click & reward with a treat.
- When they hop inside the bag, click & reward with a treat.
- Once they are used to being around the bag and approach it happily on their own, try implementing the command.
Train them to hop in the bag on their own
- Say "bag" whenever they hop in the bag. Then click, and reward with a treat. If they don't hop in the bag just yet, try placing them in it gently and saying "bag" immediately, then click & reward with a treat. Repeat this step until they hop in the bag whenever you say "bag" and click.
- You can also use this method to train your cat to not jump out of their bag until you tell them. This will help them stay safe when you're out & about in an unfamiliar environment.
Take them outside!
- Start by wearing your cat in their backpack around the house, for short periods of time.
- Slowly build up to taking your cat outside, starting with small outings & gradually lengthening them as your cat gets comfortable.
For more tips on training your cat to love their cat backpack, read this article.
Is Clicker Training a Kitten the Same as Training a Dog?
Training a cat to clicker train is much different than training a dog. Cats need incentive to follow a command, as they tend to be more autonomous creatures, whereas dogs are programmed more towards following commands to please.
Have patience when training your cat, it requires laying the groundwork & giving them a reason why they should listen. With a little time, determination & persuasion, you can train your cat!
Is There a Right Age to Start Clicker Training a Cat?
While it is certainly more impactful to start training your cat from a young age, there's nothing to say that older cats can't be trained too. It might just take a little more incentive to break their old habits! There is no "right" age to start - just start!
Are Cat and Dog Clickers the Same?
You can definitely use a dog clicker to train your cat, as most clickers are compatible with training both pets! Just make sure your cat isn’t super sensitive to the sound.
We hope that this article on clicker training was helpful, and that it will guide you in having a successful training experience with your cat. For more tips & resources, check out our blog!
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