This is a classic case of a cat being trained like a dog, doing dog-like tricks, which goes to prove, if proof is needed, that cats can be trained. Note though that this Maine Coon appears to have consumed a considerable quantity of “food rewards” during his training to the point where he has become, on the face of it, overweight.
Yes, like other animals cats can learn to perform a particular action. Animal trainers use a standard technique known as operant conditioning. Not many people bother to train cats apart from professional people who train cats for television or movie purposes…or this video!
Cats are more difficult to train than dogs for three main reasons according to John Bradshaw in his book Cat Senses. Firstly, there is less “raw material” to draw upon from a cat. What he means is that there is less variety in behaviour in cats. Most training involves changing the cues which result in an example of normal behaviour but not training an animal to do something he/she would never normally do. It is much harder to do this.
Cats are said to be less attentive towards people than dogs. When encountering problems that they cannot solve they don’t tend to look to their owners for help but dogs tend to do this automatically.
Dogs get their reward by physical contact with their owner whereas cats can only be rewarded with food, which is invariably used by cat trainers. You can see both the food reward and the clicker being used in the video.
Professional trainers of cats use clickers which Bradshaw describes as “secondary reinforcers”. Clickers become associated with the food reward and they are more precise in being associated with the successful completion of a task. They bridge, in terms of time, the successful completion of the desired task and the reward.
What I mean is that delivering the reward at exactly the right moment to reinforce the desired behaviour is difficult when only a food reward is used. The secondary reinforcers provide a distinctive cue which tells the cat that her reward (the food) is on his way. Distinctive sounds have found to be the most convenient and practical secondary reinforcers as they instantly make the cat feel better thereby reinforcing the desired behaviour.
The image is here as a reminder that the video was here (if it is removed at YouTube at some time in the future and therefore fails to play).