Updated: Jan 16
No, we’re not joking. We really believe everyone should train their cat, and that every cat has the ability to learn. They know all your patterns, right? They know what you are doing before you do. They know when it’s time for their meals with uncanny precision, and no matter how much you try to make it look innocent, they absolutely know when you are about to drag out the carrier for that hated vet trip (we can help with that, too. See our blog on vet trips). Obviously, they have great capacity to learn and remember. You’ve always said your cat is smarter than your neighbor’s dog, so why not prove it? Spend a few minutes a day with your cat teaching them new behaviors and tricks, and you will amaze all your friends and family. And maybe that dog next door.
Yes, we know. You believe your cat would rather spend their day sleeping in a cat tree than go on adventures or learn new tricks. Not true!!! Cats are highly intelligent animals who want and NEED to use their brains. If you don’t provide them with desirable activities to keep them stimulated and happy, you may find they take matters into their own hands - like pulling every one of your clean dish towels out of the drawer and making a bed for themselves. Almost any cat can learn basic skills on command or cue such as crate training, sit, down, and come; or even advanced behaviors and tricks like weaving around your legs, rebounding off your leg, or even jumping on to an object on cue (though learning NOT to jump on objects might be a better trick in some households….)!
So....why should you train your cat?
People decide to train their pets for many reasons, but the most important reason we can think of is to protect your cat’s well being. Traveling with your cat in a kennel, improving confidence outside of the home, learning to trust new humans, physical and mental fitness, building self-confidence, coming when you call their name - all of these are benefits that can be reaped when you spend a few minutes a day training your cat - not to mention saving one of their nine lives! I recently took one of our kittens to a cat show. There was a lull in the activity and left him in his “security” shelter and went to get some coffee. When I returned to our row, I heard one of my neighboring exhibitors call, “Cat out!” - the universal call at a show when a cat gets loose. Oftentimes, these events result in a not-so-merry chase, a spooked cat who can never be shown again, and sometimes, bloodshed.
However, this was not the case here. I looked where they were all looking, and noticed that my young protege had decided to happily take a stroll out of his security shelter, which I thought I had zipped securely. He had exited the shelter, walked across his grooming area, and was standing on the empty space next to it, calmly surveying his surroundings, tail held high. I put down my coffee, called him by name, and easily picked him up and returned him to his shelter. I could see the shocked and relieved looks on their faces - this is not what usually happens. I praised him for being a good boy, and gave him some treats - then returned him to his shelter and put the zipper locks on.
This was no accident. He had been handled for a few minutes a day from birth, and was given a name as soon as I could think of one. He is only four months old, but he is crate trained, been handled by strangers, and comes when called. To instill these behaviors in him took very little time but did require some planning, plus thoughtfully controlling and enriching his environment.
Enrichment is the act of improving or enhancing the quality of your cat’s life. Playing with toys, hunting for food, going outside on a harness, and training are all great examples of activities that you can do on a regular basis and greatly enrich their lives. Training is great for both mental and physical enrichment. Cats are accomplished problem solvers and it gives them a great deal of satisfaction to figure things out - particularly if there’s their favorite treat waiting for them for a
job well done! Ever notice how satisfied your cat looks when they figure out how to open that drawer with their favorite toys and drag them out? It’s not your imagination. Their body language says it all - they are quite happy with the results of their exploits and dare we say, even proud? Trick training channels their love of problem-solving. Your cat will feel like they have accomplished something plus fulfill a need to have structured variety in their daily activities. By providing your cat with the opportunity for useful and enriching activities on a daily basis, you may avoid or solve problem behaviors that are rooted in boredom.
3. IMPROVES THE CAT / HUMAN BOND AND COMMUNICATION
Training is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your cat, whether you’ve had them for 5 days or 10 years - it requires you to work together and communicate in ways that you both understand. Effective training requires clear communication between you and your cat - not only must your cat learn what you want from them, it will also help you learn how to meet their needs and how to best motivate them. The ability to understand what your cat is thinking and feeling provides many benefits beyond training - you will better understand what things cause them distress in the environment, what thing motivate them, and maybe even be in tune enough with them to know when that typically stoic cat is not feeling all that well and a vet visit might be in order.
Last but not least, it’s a blast to watch your cat learn and grow! Teaching your cat new behaviors, seeing their brains work and watching them learn new skills is so exciting - you and your cat will get to know each other in a whole, new way! They may sleep 12 to 16 hours a day, but when they are awake, it’s play time, so why not make it productive and stimulating? You can also entertain friends and strangers - how many of them have cats that can give you a “high-five” or walk on a leash? You’ll be the talk of the neighborhood when you get your cat out there on a lead while the others are walking their dogs!
Don't know where to start???
Sounds like a great idea, you say, but you just don't know where to start. We are here to help!
This is the first in a series of blog posts we are running leading up to the release or our one-of-a-kind cat training iPhone app (we promise you...there's nothing else like it!!!). We are so excited to be able to make this available very soon - stay tuned! Sign up on on this website and be one of the first to know when it will be available on the Apple App Store! In the meantime, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and this blog for loads of helpful tips!