A Bit of Cat Training is Good

There is one aspect of cat training that is practical, useful and fair: training your cat to “come” on command. In general, I don’t really believe in cat training. I don’t think we have the right to train our cat. However, cats train us to a certain extent and they certainly get us to come on their command. If my cat meows from a distance, say in another room, I will often investigate to see what is going on – what does he want?

Training cat to come on command

Training a cat to come on command. Photo of cat by polandeze

I believe it is respectful and fair to train a cat to come on command. Although, I will understand if some people disagree with me. There are a number of benefits. When a person wants his cat’s company he can call for it. Although, of course, he won’t stay unless he wants to. There is also the matter of cat welfare and safety. If your cat goes out but not too far it would be nice to call him in for whatever reason concerned with his welfare. For example, a dog or a predator might come into the garden or if you want to get your cat inside because you are going out and are concerned for his safety.

There are some other benefits (a) the actual training and the interaction afterwards adds to the connection between person and cat and (b) it should be mentally stimulating for the cat (c) it should be fun.

Cats can be trained and, as mentioned, it can be fun too. Cats respond well to food rewards. That is the motivator. You can’t and should not train using negative reinforcement: punishment. It should all be based on positive reinforcement. It is about “conditioning your cat”. Conditioning is a form of learning.

Training A Cat To Come On Command

Know the food your cat loves

A concerned cat owner will know the kind of food treat that their cat craves. If you don’t, you can find out by trail and error. Apparently, professional trainers use “pieces of liver fried to a crisp”¹.

Clickers

Clickers are used by trainers. They make a sharp clear, sound that can be delivered precisely, which helps the cat connect the reward with his actions. The clicker is associated with the reward and eventually the food is phased out and the clicker is enough to motivate the cat.

Training Sessions

Sessions should be short at less than five minutes.

Stage 1

Feed food treats from your hand. Then raise your hand so that your cat has to stretch – he goes up on his hind legs – to reach the food treat. A clicker can be used as your cat comes for his treat.

Stage 2

Show your cat the treat and step away from your cat so he has to move towards you to get it and say “Come” at that time. As your cat moves forward click the clicker. Over time increase the distance he has to travel to come for his treat. The goal is to call from another room or from a considerable distance in the garden.


Reference:

  1. Encyclopedia of the Cat – Dr Bruce Fogle.
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Comments

A Bit of Cat Training is Good — 12 Comments

  1. I will come when you call
    IF I WANT TO.
    I will purr, if I feel so inclined
    And we’ll live side by side
    In affection and peace,
    But you’ll NEVER know
    What’s in my mind.
    Anon
    And this is why I love cats and would never try to train them by clicker, ours come to us when we call IF they want to and they mostly do want to, because they know they will get a huge welcome and they love to please us.
    We always show our love and respect for each other and have trained each other by those.
    I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      • Yes we call our cats sometimes if we need them in and yes they come IF they want to lol and most times they do want to.
        When we had Bryan he loved a game called ‘Who beats to me?’ I only had to stand with my arms open in welcome and say ‘Who beats?’ and he’d run to me.
        Maybe it is a sort of training, but it’s a fun training, not a bossy I’m in control training.
        Our late mam had a cat called Kitty and she came to her when she sang ‘Please release me’ by Engelbert Humperdink.
        Between our mother and a very wise old vet I worked for I learned a lot about cats and how love, fun, respect, patience and understanding, made for happiness for them and for us too.

        • Yes we call our cats sometimes if we need them in and yes they come IF they want to lol and most times they do want to.

          This is because they like being in your home. It is a treat and, in a very mild way, you have trained your cats. It is not training in the conventional sense but you get a response and that is more or less the same thing.

          Your late mam’s singing ‘Please release me’ is a cute way of saying “come”.

          To be honest we are all trained in one way or the other. We know how to get along and that is due to self-training through experience. Learning is a form of self-training.

          • Yes I suppose cats and their caretakers train each other and just as we make home a happy place to be and love having our cats around us, we also respect that they want and have the right, to do the things cats like to do.
            Our boyz know when we put our coats and shoes on that we are going out and they must stay in until we return, but they also know that we will bring them something back and they will have their turn of freedom for a while.
            Jozef always runs downstairs to greet us but Walter waits for us to go to him.
            Cats are fascinating and each one different, life is never dull with them around!

    • Ruth I love your little poem – I am putting it on my Facebook.

      I find the whole clicker thing wierd. Training in my house is organic and informal.

  2. I have taught Monty the word “tuna” for any fish from a tin that he gets to share with Momma– whether that be sardines, salmon of tuna. Now even if he isn’t particularly hungry I can get him to come running to me when he’s outside by yelling “Tuna!” because “Treat!” doesn’t always work if he’s recently had a meal. But he will come running for tuna on a full belly, he likes it so much. This time of year it’s not an issue– with no vegetation growing I can’t lose track of him outside. But when things start to grow he can hide from me and he has done it when he suspected I wanted him to come in. But he will choose tuna over even outside time, he likes it so much. So I have a way to instantly find him and get his attention. I’m hoping “tuna” will work even if he’s chasing after a bee and I can’t get there in time. Of course, then I have to provide some tuna– so I wouldn’t want to use it too often or he’ll be fatter than he already is. But I think it’s good for me to have a cat who will come when I call, even if I have to bribe him to do it. It helps me keep him safer since he goes out sans leash in a fenced yard, but one he could escape from if he was determined. He never has though. He knows where he gets his tuna! I think it was clever of metro teach him just one word for all the kinds of fish we share. I think it is clever of him to have such a large vocabulary, even though almost all the words he knows center on food.
    The other day though, I just opened the door and said to Monty, “I need you to come in. I have to take a shower and I can’t watch you from there. What if you needed to come in right away and I was in the bathroom and couldn’t open the door for you? You’d better come in.” And he did! Just like he understood. I think he understands quite a lot. I talk to him a lot.

    • Loved this comment. The truth is you have trained him. It is very informal but the basic method is the same. Tuna is the treat and saying the word “tuna” is like saying “come”. There is no clicker but a clicker is not essential. OK, you have a method and it is a nice one and your comment evokes a nice image in my mind.

    • Yes Ruth I’m sure Monty understands quite a lot! Cats are very clever.
      I always know people are true cat lovers when they talk to cats, their own cats and other peoples too and any cat they may meet.
      I love to know the names of our friends and neighbours cats and greet them by name, just the same as I would a person.

  3. Cats are extremely intelligent and respond to their names as do my cats.Only difference compared to dogs is that cats have a mind of their own and are never ever obedient akin to dogs and no cat will ever win any obediance test in any cat show, barring the odd freak.Thats the beauty and pleasure of owning cats, they are the closest pets that are truly wild in nature akin to their wild cousins, the “Big Cats”.

  4. That’s what I love about cats too Rudolph, that they have a mind of their own and are wild at heart.
    I think we true cat lovers are a bit like that ourselves.

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