When you see professional dog trainers working their magic, have you ever noticed they have something in their hand? They click this little device and then give the dog a treat. Did you notice that during this sort of training the trainer isn’t even speaking to the dog? That little device is called a “clicker trainer” and boy it sure does wonders! If clicker trainers are such a popular and important tool in dog training, why don’t many consider using it to train cats?
People let their cats just be. They are easy animals to take care of. Far less than dogs. Even at the shelter people would specifically adopt a cat because they wanted and animal and “cats are just so easy.” Easy. Easy. Absolutely…until it’s not.
Clicker training in cats is a tool I would consider a must. Whether for kittens or adults, our fur babies can learn at any age. So, as I praise this little tool, you’re probably wondering what in the world it does? How can it help? Here’s a short list of behaviors we can change with just a click.
- Counter surfing
- Introductions between animals/reintroductions
- Scratching and other destructive behavior
- Improper elimination
- Getting into their carrier
Hold on. What? Getting into their carrier? We’ve all seen what those little murder mittens can do to our skin as they fight for their lives, while you inflict sheer torture putting them in their
Now that you know what behaviors it can help, how does it work? Easy! Click and treat. When we’re trying to teach our felines a new desired behavior, just like children, they like to be rewarded. In one hand you will hold the clicker, and in the other hand, or very close by, you will have something yummy to reward them with. Something they love. Something delicious. As you ponder what you would use for your cat, I’ll help you out. Cheese. Yes, don’t ask me why but many cats are obsessed with it.
Now, we’re not going to give them much at all and cause bombs in their litterboxes, we may want about 20 very small pieces. So now you got your clicker and your yummies. You will click and instantly treat as a reward for good behavior.
For example: You have done a proper introduction between your cat and the new kitty you adopted. Resident kitty is tolerating new kitty but does hiss and growl sometimes. Once any undesired behavior starts, we want to distract them right away. Roll a ball across the room and the hissing will stop as you redirected their attention. Click and treat.
Resident cat is just laying doing absolutely nothing by new cat. Click and treat. Never treat for negative behavior. We are conditioning our cats to know that click sound means something good.
If your feline scratches your couch and you have a post for them, spray some pheromones on desired scratching areas. When your cat is about to scratch your couch, distract them. Call them over near the post. Once they come, click and immediately treat. If they scratch, click and treat.
You see how versatile this little tool is? I’m sure you can think off the top of your head just how many different scenarios you could use it in.
Clicker sessions should be done at least 2-3 times a day until the desired behavior is reached. Sessions should be very short…. about 3mins. We want to end our sessions before our cat gets bored. If your session was cut short because your cat decided it was done, that’s totally fine, try a shorter one next time. Get clicking and let me know how it goes!
Clicker trainers are available in pet stores and online for just a few dollars.