I never in my life could ever think it would be possible to teach a cat tricks. Doing so, both inside and beyond the house, has certainly strengthened our bond and has enriched the quality of his life. Read on to discover the world of training with a cat!
If you haven't yet heard of Cat School I'm about introduce you to a whole new world that you'll want to be a part of. It's true, we did start training Gibson at a younger age (7 months old) but there are loads of success stories of older cats learning tricks under the guidance of Cat School (and your patience in learning how to train properly) - it is possible! Julie, animal behaviourist and founder/owner of Cat School, says,
"There is no age limit on learning. Imagine us saying humans can't learn at 60, 70, 80, etc. If a human wanted to learn to play bridge or guitar at 85, they could, right? Food motivation is more important than age and training is like a game; in the beginning it can be hard to learn the rules."
When I first met Julie, we were simply meeting up to walk our cats together. We got talking about her business near the end of our meet and before I knew it she had taught Gibson to give a high five in under 5 minutes. What?! I was BLOWN away. I immediately made the decision right then and there to have training be a part of our lifestyle. I purchased the target stick and clicker and secured our spot as students in her class. If you'd like, you can also purchase the target stick/clicker and/or your spot in her class on the Cat School website. Alternatively, you can pick up the target stick/clicker on Amazon). Subscribing to her youtube channel will also really help in teaching you how to begin training with your cat.
Training With Gibson
Currently, Gibson knows a total of 13 tricks: sit, lay down, high five/bump it (left paw, right paw, both paws), roll over (left side, right side), stay, kisses, "meercat"/sit pretty, he will jump to me from nearly any surface to my arms/back/feet, rings a bell, spins, can sit on a skateboard and be pushed on it (building up to him getting on it and pushing himself), will follow the target stick almost anywhere it goes, and will perch on an object. You can always view his 'Tricks' highlight on his Instagram page to view any videos of his tricks.
Julie's class, tips from her Instagram and the community she's gathered, and her YouTube page have all helped me in training him. In the online class, I can post any questions and get direct guidance from her on how to troubleshoot as he learns whatever skill/trick I am teaching him. Through her Instagram I get inspired by other tricks/skills that get posted so that I can teach/challenge him and get help from others who are training just like me. On her YouTube page there are step by step videos on how to teach you cat(s). Just remember, every cat learns differently just like us, so what works for us or another cat may not work for yours. Don't get discouraged on the time that it can take to learn one trick; be patient and you will see results! Also, don't allow your student to get discouraged either. If you noticed them losing focus, throw in some tricks they already know so that their success rate is higher than their failures and they will continue to enjoy school with most favourite teacher ever - YOU!
Gibson is pretty fast learner as he's highly motivated by food. Finding what food your feline student is motivated by will really help them to pick up new skills and tricks as well. I use (and LOVE) Crumps' Naturals Mini Trainers freeze dried liver treats because it has one ingredient and is only 0.17 kcal PER TREAT. You will see that these treats are advertised for dogs but it's more than safe for cats as well since it's only one ingredient (and cat's are obligate carnivores - they need lots of protein in their diet). You can find these treats on their website, Amazon, or at any Global Pet Foods store. One thing that would really annoy me with the treats we used in the past is that I had to cut each treat into quarters to limit his calorie intake - this took me so long! The Crumps' Natural Mini Trainers already come super small (saves me a lot of time not needing to cut them up); their small size and only ingredient (beef liver) is what makes them so low in calories! If I am teaching him a skill/trick that requires high motivation, I will use Inaba Churu Creamy Puree Cat Treats (which you can either purchase in bulk on Amazon or at Petsmart). These treats do have more calories (an estimated 6 kcals per tube) so we don't use them as often when we train but Churus are how he was able to learn the "meercat" (also known as sit pretty)! Because he goes nuts for this treat, he'd always stand up on his hind legs to reach it. Every time he did that, I would click and gave him a small taste of the Churu stick after the desired behaviour was achieved. Repeating this showed him that this was what he was being asked to do and he delivered. Another very useful tool that we use while training is the Essential Treat Bag. It's so easy to clip to your pants and grab treats when your hands are full with the clickers or busy delivering the action of the trick/skill. Just ask your local pet store if they carry it or are able to order it in for purchase or get any treat bag that works well for you!
"It's clear from Cat School's following that lots of cats of varying ages, breeds, environments, personalities, and behaviours are able to comprehend and achieve as they train with their guardians. Why not start and see what your feline student is capable of - who knows, you might have an A++ student right under your nose!"
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I'd love to hear about your thoughts, questions, or what your cat is learning! Feel free to message me on Instagram, email me, or drop a comment down below (just note that I cannot comment back but always read what you write).
xx Sarah & Gibson