The complete guide to raising a kitten: Part 8 – how to teach a clever kitten to do tricks that are both fun and useful!

September 02, 2019

Only dogs can be trained to do tricks, right? Nope!

Cats may have a reputation for being stubborn, but with the right training, you wouldn’t believe the tricks they can learn and the way this can strengthen your bond.

Need proof? Just check out these clever catdogs of South Australia!

At RSPCA South Australia, we’re all for busting the myth that cats are un-trainable, once and for all.

Here are 6 super cool tricks that, with enough persistence and cooperation, you can get a clever kitty to master (and the younger they are, the easier it will be!).

Before getting started, you may want to purchase a training clicker made for cats (head to our RSPCA Petville store at Hillcrest) and make sure you have a treat on hand (suss our guide to homemade cat treats).

In the same way that dogs are trained, we’ll be pairing a click noise with a food treat for your kitty so that you can have your very own catdog.

1. Coming on cue

Okay, so some people may deny that this is a ‘trick’, but given how helpful it is (and the fact that some cats legit just never learn it), we’d still call it one.

If your cat ever dashes out unexpectedly, being able to get them to come back on cue is a lifesaver.

The trick is to teach them to respond to a vocal cue by running to you, starting when they’re a kitten.

  1. Before opening your cat’s food can or bag at mealtime, call their name in a distinct way.
  2. Puss will learn to associate the noise of their name with food and will eventually head to you when they hear it.
  3. Encourage this behaviour outside of normal feeding times. Starting from short distances, call their name distinctly, use your clicker when your cat comes, and then reward them with a treat.
  4. Over time, call your kitty from longer distances.
  5. Eventually, your cat will come to you whenever you call their name this way – whether it’s mealtime or not. Voilà!

2. Walking on a harness and leash

That’s right – dogs aren’t the only ones who can be walked! Training your cat to be walked on a leash is not only possible, but it’s an amazing way for indoor cats to gain safe exposure to the great outdoors.

Walking on a harness and leash is also best taught to kittens so they can get used to it early on.

Remember – we recommend using a harness and leash combo for cats the same way we do for dogs, so that you have gentle control and can encourage loose-lead walking, while avoiding pressure on your fur baby’s neck or back.

Here are our tips:

  1. Before you can train your cat to walk on a leash, you’ll need a cat harness – staff at our RSPCA Petville store at Hillcrest or Lonsdale shelter will be able to help you pick out the right harness for your kitty. We recommend harnesses made specifically for cats, since these are more comfortable and secure than small dog harnesses.
  2. Get your cat used to their harness by putting it on them during playtime daily, and reward them with treats and affection so they associate the harness with good things.
  3. Let your cat walk around wearing the harness without a leash on until they seem comfortable.
  4. The time it takes to get your cat used to their harness can vary, so be patient – for some cats it could take many days.
  5. Once your cat seems comfortable, connect the leash to the harness, hold it, and let your cat lead you around the house until they seem used to it.
  6. It’s now time to take your cat outside while holding the leash, and let them lead you – make sure you let your cat take their time exploring each new area.
  7. Some cats may be extra stubborn, so be patient – and give treats for encouragement!
  8. Walking your cat on their leash is best confined to your backyard – we do not recommend taking them to busy places such as parks.

3. Sitting

Just like dogs, cats can also learn to sit on cue. This one is especially useful for when you want to calm an overexcited cat.

Training your cat to sit goes like this:

  1. With your clicker in one hand and a treat in the other, sit on the floor and call your cat to you.
  2. Hold the treat slightly above your cat’s head, and wait for them to sit as their eyes follow the treat.
  3. When they start to form a sitting position, click and reward them with the treat.
  4. Repeat this process until your cat is properly sitting, at which point you should also add the cue word ‘sit’.
  5. This one also requires patience and can take a few training sessions over several days, but eventually you should be able to get your feline fur baby to sit on cue.

4. High fiving

We all know dogs can learn to high five – but when a cat does it, somehow it’s even cooler.

To teach your kitty to high five, we recommend the following:

  1. With a clicker next to you and a treat in your hand, sit on the floor in front of your cat.
  2. Show the treat to your puss.
  3. Hold the treat above your cat’s nose, tap their paw, and wait for them to reach their paw up.
  4. When they move their paw up, click and reward them with the treat.
  5. Repeat this until your cat offers their paw without you having to tap it first.
  6. This can take a few training sessions over several days (we recommend short ones of about five min), but with enough patience, you should have a high-fiving cat.

5. Fetching

This one’s purely for novelty and reserved for the most cooperative kitties, but yes, some cats really can be taught to fetch if you try hard enough!

To have your very own catdog who fetches, we recommend the following:

  1. Rub some of the water from a can of tuna or cat food on your cat’s favourite toy and throw it just out of reach (the aim is to arouse their natural hunting instinct).
  2. Let’s be real – at first, your cat is unlikely to respond when you do this, so repeat the process until they wander over to the toy.
  3. When your cat wanders over to the toy or picks it up, use your clicker and give a treat.
  4. Repeat this process until your cat starts bringing the toy towards you, at which point you should click and treat.
  5. When your cat is retrieving the toy and bringing it to you, add the cue word ‘fetch’ every time you throw the toy.
  6. Remember – patience and persistence is key!

6. Jumping through a hoop

If your kitty has managed to master all these tricks, you might like to take it to the next level.

Jumping. Through. Hoops.

Literally.

Can you believe this post marks the end of our complete guide to raising a kitten? Time flies when you’re being the best cat parent ever!

To make sure you’ve covered all bases, head over here for the other posts in the series. PS. If you manage to get your puss to master any of these tricks, pretty please share your work with us on Facebook or Instagram by tagging us at @rspcasa and #rspcasa.


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