How To Train a Cat: 5 Helpful Tips + Training Ideas

How To Train a Cat: 5 Helpful Tips + Training Ideas

Finding healthy ways to direct cat behavior is critical if you are going to enjoy a rewarding relationship with your cat. That being said, cat training can be tricky — which is likely why so many people think that cats can’t be trained. This simply isn’t true, but you do need to know how to do it correctly.

If you want to learn how to train your cat, here are five tips to get you started on the right path towards encouraging your cat’s good behavior and discouraging their bad behavior. You may even learn enough to teach your feline family members some fun tricks!

1) Find a Desirable Reward Such as Treats or Food

Positive reinforcement is the best way to train a cat. Whether you’re trying to tame a crazy kitten or working with an older cat to teach them a trick or two, you need to start with a tasty food reward.

Figuring out what your cat’s favorite treats are or using high-quality cat food as a reward can work well. Some cats respond well to healthy human food (like a piece of tuna) that they don’t get often. Remember to balance the treats with the food you serve at mealtime to ensure your cat is not over-eating. 

If you are looking for high-quality treats to use when training cats, visit The Honest Kitchen cat treats page.

2) Consider Using a Clicker To Train Your Cat

Dogs aren’t the only ones that can benefit from clicker training. It can be used to train an assortment of behaviors — from sitting to coming when called. Every time your cat performs the desired behavior, you click the clicker. You will need those tasty treats to associate the clicker with a positive reward. After you click the clicker, offer the treat as a reward. The cat will quickly associate the sound of the clicker with something positive, and you can reduce the number of treats you give over time. Always give treats on occasion so the cat continues to respond to the clicker sound.

3) Make Training Sessions Fun and Interactive

Training sessions should be fun for both of you. Remember, your cat’s attention span is pretty short. If your cat isn’t interested or wants to run off, let them. Don’t force a training session if your cat isn’t interested, because both of you will end up frustrated. Keep training positive, relaxed, and at their pace. If it’s not fun and rewarding, they won’t want to participate.

4) Implement Timeouts When Play Gets Too Rough

Cats sometimes get carried away during playtime — meaning you may end up with some nasty scratches or “love bites” on your arms. When they start tearing into your hands and arms, gently extract yourself and stop the playtime by leaving the area. Rough play includes any scratching or nipping behavior. Even if the behavior isn’t causing pain, when you continue playtime after scratching and nipping begins, it reinforces that this is good behavior — which can create painful behavior problems later. Not only does walking away protect your limbs, but it will teach your cat that rough play equals no play.

5) Redirect Bad or Undesirable Behavior

Another way to stop unwanted behavior is by redirecting the unwanted behavior into desired behavior. If your cat wants to attack your feet, throw a favorite toy off for them to chase (and play with them frequently). If they want to scratch your bed, sofa, or favorite lounge chair, have many scratch pads nearby to offer them when they’re in a scratching mood.

Useful Cat Training Techniques

When you bring home a new cat, you may notice some behaviors you want to discourage. Scratching furniture, breaking items in your home, scratching or biting you, pooping or peeing outside the litter box, and improper aggression around food are all common problems in cats that proper training can help eliminate. Correcting this behavior right away is important as you look to make your cat a pleasant addition to your home, not a nuisance. Here are some techniques you need to teach your cat as part of your cat care.

How To Use a Litter Box

One of the perks of owning a cat is the fact that you can teach them to poop and pee in the litter box. Cat litter is naturally attractive to cats when they need to eliminate, but you can do some things to help train this behavior.

First, make sure the litter box is in a convenient and quiet area for your cat. Take your cat to the litter box after meals and naps, which are normal elimination times. If the cat uses the litter box, give them a treat. Keep the litter box clean daily for your cat’s health. Keep the focus on positive reinforcement, not negative. If accidents happen, just clean them up and try again next time.

Training a Cat Not To Bite

Biting is a natural animal behavior in cats, but you can train it out of them. First, never allow your cat to play with your hands because biting will occur. Instead, use a toy when you play. If your cat seems to be in a biting mood, offer a toy. If your cat engages with a soft mouth, praise your cat. When the cat bites, pull your hand away and make a negative noise, and immediately stop the game. Soon your cat will learn that biting means the fun stops, and they will likely cease the behavior.

Teaching a Cat To Not Scratch Your Furniture

Scratching is also a normal and natural behavior in cats, and in fact, cats need to scratch to keep their nails healthy. However, scratching your furniture is not good behavior. To eliminate this behavior, purchase some scratching posts and place them strategically around your home. Then, cover your couch with a sheet that you tape tightly to it, which makes it unappealing to scratch. Sprinkle catnip on your scratching posts to entice them to use it. You can also attach a wand toy to the post to make it interesting. If the scratching post is exciting enough, your cat won’t even look at the couch.

Bonus: Tricks You Can Teach Your Cat

Once you’ve mastered the important good behaviors, you are ready to start looking at some tricks. Cat tricks are possible to teach your cat, and they will impress the people who visit your home and think that cats can’t learn tricks. Here are some fun new tricks to consider.

Teaching Your Cat To Fetch

Fetch isn’t just for dogs. You can teach your cat to fetch, too, and it can be a great trick to help your cat get some exercise in your home.

To teach this, call your cat and show them their favorite treat. Then, toss a toy a short distance, no more than five feet, and say “fetch.” Your cat may get the toy. If they do, call them back to you and offer the treat. Dropping the toy means the cat gets the treat, and you have reinforced the behavior (also be sure to offer a lot of praise to reinforce this trick).

Repeat this game several times, and your cat will soon pick up on the command “fetch.” Soon you’ll be playing fetch just like you would with a dog!

Of course, your cat may not bring back the toy. If that happens, go to your cat and offer the treat. If the cat takes the treat, grab the toy and go back to your original spot, and repeat. It may take a few sessions, but most cats will pick up on what you want.

Train Your Cat To Sit, Lie Down, and High-Five

Sit and lie down are good behaviors to train. To teach these, place a good-smelling treat in your hand and close your fist. Put the fist near your cat’s face, then move your fist so that your cat must naturally go into a sitting or lying down position, while you say the command. As soon as your cat sits or lies down, open your hand and offer praise with the treat.

High-five is similar. Use the closed fist and place your hand in front of your cat, but not near the face. Most cats will naturally sniff or paw at your hand. As soon as the paw moves toward your hand, use the clicker or offer verbal praise for the behavior, and give the treat. Once your cat starts to catch on that you want the paw to touch your hand, you can insert the command “high five.”

At first, keep your hand positioning consistent, but over time once your cat catches on, you can change up the position. Once your cat can paw your hand on command, you know you’ve successfully taught this behavior.

Make Cat Training a Breeze With The Honest Kitchen’s Cat Treats

Most of these cat training tips involve positive rewards in the way of food treats. Once you learn how training cats works, you can start adding more training, like teaching your cat to enjoy being groomed or getting their teeth brushed, or adding more tricks to your repertoire.

The key to successful training is the right reinforcement. Praise and a clicker are great, but to really motivate your cat, you’re going to need some great treats.

The Honest Kitchen cat treats are made with just 1 to 2 ingredients and are high in protein—making them both healthy and tasty treats that cats love. You can be confident in using them for training because of their high-quality, human-grade ingredients. With flavors like herring and white fish, you can rest assured that these treats will motivate your cat! Shop The Honest Kitchen cat treats today to find the perfect treats for your training sessions.

Jessica Peralta

Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.
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