How to train your cat to roll over

There is quite a lot of informal training taking place on an ongoing basis in a cat household both from cat to person and person to cat. Training a cat to do something specific is not that unusual. It is an extension of what is already happening. Dr. Bruce Fogle, the well-known author and veterinarian, makes what I think is remarkable statement in his book Complete Cat Care. He says that “all cats need training”. A lot of cat owners would disagree with the statement despite the fact that they have been informally trained their cat already to do certain things! Initially I disagreed with it. But I can now see the benefits although it’s unusual to say that cats need to be trained.

Clicker training a domestic cat using a clicker and food reward to do the roll over
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Clicker training a domestic cat using a clicker and food reward to do the roll over. Screenshot.

Training your cat is educating him to do things that please you

He makes the point that housebound cats depend on their human caregiver “for education, for instructions in how to live enjoyably with us”. He thinks that training your cat helps the relationship and makes a cat’s life more enjoyable. Certainly, in respect of full-time indoor cats training must be beneficial. Also, the training process is beneficial because it is stimulating and it helps cement the bond between person and cat. So, there are real benefits to training your cat. A lot of so called ‘bad cat behavior’ is really cat activities that the owner does not like. There is no better solution to that problem than training your cat to do things that you like. Or simply alter your expectations.

Patience needed

The great barrier to cat training is that it requires patience. Nowadays it is often in short supply because of lifestyle pressures. The world is constantly speeding up thanks to the internet and new technology.

Positive reinforcement

I’m sure you know that domestic cat training is about positive reinforcement. It is entirely based on rewards. The reward is normally food. You will have to be confident that you have your cat’s favourite food to motivate him. Secondly, you should make sure that your cat is hungry; ready for a meal. In all the videos that I have seen on cat training, a dry cat food pellet is the reward. I guess because it’s very convenient. This might do but it doesn’t have to be a dry cat food pellet which motivates your cat.

Video – clicker training plus food reward

The video below I think is excellent. You couldn’t do better than watch this video to learn how to train your cat to roll over with clicker training. The clicker looks a bit strange but the thinking behind it is that it creates a positive sound which helps a cat recognise the reward. They call it “a bridge”; a bridge between doing the required activity or movement and the reward. It helps to bring the reward into sharp focus and therefore improve the training process.

Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

Dr Bruce Fogle

Dr. Bruce Fogle describes training the rollover like this:

  1. When your cat is lying down, hold the treat in front of him. You then move the treat forwards not towards your cat’s nose but down one side of his body. He will usually roll onto the other side to follow the treat.
  2. You keep moving the treat down towards the tail end and across the tummy, aiming for the uppermost hip. Your cat will then raise his head and follow the treat with his eyes, nose and possibly his paws.
  3. You then sweep the treat over the body and your cat will roll. You say “good rollover” and deliver the treat to your cat. If your cat just twists on his shoulders the treat was too far up the body. Move it lower next time.

Breaking down the process

In the video you can see the trainer proceeding step-by-step and breaking down the process so that her cat learns each process and then joins up the dots. At the end of a successful training process a cat will do a rollover without a reward.

The same principles, of course, apply to all domestic cat training.

P.S. I confess that I have never formally clicker trained my cat. Although I have trained him to do certain things to strengthen our relationship.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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