Why dogs are much easier to train than cats

Dog training
Dog training. Photo: Dimitriy K.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This will be a very short post because the reason why dogs are self-evidently much easier to train than cats can be delivered in a succinct way according to Dr Bradshaw. There are two reasons behind this well-known difference between dogs and cats.

Firstly, dogs find the simple act of human attention rewarding whereas cats “do not find human attention rewarding in its own right”. If this difference is true it must because the cat is essentially a solitary creature whereas the dog is a pack animal.

Because of this difference the reward when training a cat is nearly always food. For the dog it can be affection. I suppose the point being made here is that as a dog is rewarded by our affection it is much easier to provide the reward.

The reward of course is part of positive reinforcement in training.

Secondly, dog behavior can be “shaped” into something useful for humans. An example is the sheepdog herding sheep. This is a modification of the hunting behavior of the wolf, the dog’s wild ancestor. The various forms of cat behavior cannot be shaped or adopted in this way.

I think the point Dr Bradshaw is making is that we train dogs to do something useful for us whereas cats were domesticated to prey on rodents but they don’t need training for that; we let them get on with it. The only reason for training a cat is for our pleasure. There appears to be no functional purpose to it.

Perhaps there is a third factor. Dogs are more needy than cats. The dog wants to please whereas the cat has a more take it or leave it attitude. The desire to please lends itself to being trained.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

21 thoughts on “Why dogs are much easier to train than cats”

  1. Well I’m sure cats can be Trained and I agree with What Ruth says let Cats be Cats. Dogs and Cats really are different. I sometimes think Jasmine Acts like a dog as, she chances after things and hold them in her mouth and carrys them around. Even Leaves and branches come inside. Nice to see other peoples photos esp the Show Photos.

  2. Dear Mr Ahsan Ul Haq,
    At least we both from different sides of the border are not discussing “Politics” but “Cats”.Michael has been instrumental in indirectly creating the “Cat Club” in Mumbai as i was inspired by his articles on “P.O.C” and hence canvassed through the internet of having a “Registered Cat Club” and “Cat shows” in India.After years of “Facebook” articles on “Mumbai cat club” and “Persian cats upkeep and breeding” as well as blogs a cat club finally materialized with the “Indian cat Federation” owing allegiance to the “World cat club” of Germany having their first show in Bangalore in 2013.As you mentioned “Cat Shows” are sponsored by “Pet food conglomerates” who have their own vested interests in mind, generating profits.But , so is also all other forms of business including sports, most notably “CRICKET” .The “Mumbai cat show” was the first cat show i ever attended in my life and was impressed about the conduction of the event although the participating cats on the first day were sparse.”Dogs” as pets and dog shows are very popular in India and seems the sponsors didn’t advertise the event properly through proper channels. On the second and last day it was a good large gathering and more competitive cats, a success.”Cat Shows” and “Recognized cat registry” society’s are essential for developing and regularizing the cat breeding hobby as well as cats as pets.Do you’ll have a registered cat club in Pakistan ?At the Cat show in Mumbai i came across a Pakistani origin lady now settled in India who exhibited two traditional Persian kittens costing Rs 40,000 each! This is a fortune for a cat in India.My opinion is that “Cat Shows” benefit cats and the cat community as it regularizes and standardizes the breeding as well as the pet industry in cats.Below is the photo of the pair of kittens worth Rs 80,000 approx.

    1. I agree that cat shows can and should be beneficial for cats. They raise the public profile of cats. As long as the breeders act responsibly they help. I am pleased that India has its own cat association and I am interested in seeing how it develops.

      The Persians at 40,000 RS is the price they cost in the West. Western prices are hitting India but then you are becoming more Westernised.

    2. Thank you dear Rudolph

      I am not talking only on politics

      I am interesting in Welfare of cats whether cats are indoor or FERAL cats.

      Cats in general are ignored in both the countries and specially the feral cats.

      Indoor cats have a huge market in PAKISTAN, too but that is only for the RICH. 1% of total population.

      Shows are held in PAKISTAN, too but the main purpose is to promote the sales not welfare aspect. Average per capita income in both countries are very low.

      I once wrote a theory, which with the passage of time is going to become a bitter TRUTH, I wrote. . . .

      “Cats welfare can only be achieved,If and only ‘IF’, other things remaining the same in East, like we see in the west. It will be a dream forever if other things are not erected within the due course of time otherwise, cats will continue to suffer as they are still suffering in the EAST.”

      Note: OTHER THINGS means . . .

      • to look deeply into Atmosphere of the area,
      • attitude of people,
      • Income level of population,
      • political conditions of the country,
      • beliefs and disbelief of the people,
      • Advertisement,
      • Cost of cat’s products,
      • taste,
      • habits of population,
      • school awareness,
      • clubs for cats awareness and shows held only for cats in general public and for general public not for RICH people,only.

      I have written all points in detail in my book. But I have a single criteria for all cats. If the population is not interested, or awareness level is restricted to only RICH, and if the number of people are selected ONLY RICH. The awareness level or the show/ party/ feast is only for the desired number of people.

      I will never call it WELFARE for cats. It is same for me as in PAKISTAN and INDIA are two brothers on the same direction.

      I need to know a difference regarding cats.
      I also receive invitation of cats and dog shows but I never attend them because I know how much they are interested in cats welfare which is not only for indoor cats but my cat welfare speaks for the free roaming, too and it has no boundaries. It covers those cats in cages suffering in zoo but here in PAKISTAn, we are slaves and bound for the dirty politics my friend and politics directly affects the welfare of any species, this is what I know practically 🙁

      And not to hurt anyone dear
      it is only the matter of TRUTH I love to speak.

      Thank you <3

  3. The only real training I desire from any cat is in reference to using the litter box. “PLEASE use the box, my darlings. How can you miss a great big box like this one?” Maybe I should just pour a 1 inch layer of litter all over the kitchen floor.

    The same, I feel, with dogs. All I ever required was that they go to the door when they needed to be taken out.

    My one, and only one, experience with a pup at obedience school was with my beloved Hobbes. When all people were walking around the track with theirs, Hobbes wouldn’t budge and pooped in the middle of the track. We were sent home. But, that was him, a stubborn German.

  4. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    I just wish everyone would let cats be cats! Let then do what cats like to do, what they were born to do.
    I’m not impressed with anything Bradshaw has ever written, he doesn’t know as much about cats as good cat caretakers know.

    1. Agreed

      And now today I can remember what Michael said in his post once

      That Ahsan and Ruth can become one mind friends. Better understand each others feelings about cats and I mean it

      Yes I agree with Ruth even I don’t see any video here (youtube) and Ruth comment on that video, I will agree RUTH BLINDLY, no doubt she is RIGHT <3

  5. Michael i had attended the first cat show in Mumbai conducted by the “Indian cat Federation” affiliated to the “World Cat Federation(Germany)”.Check the link :-http://www.indiancatfederation.org/ For the first time in my life got to witness first hand the manner and method of a “CAT SHOW”. Although the cats on show were less in number and only “Persian breed” it was a grand occasion for cat owners and fanciers.Saw a Persian cat being led on a leash akin to a dog, mild and docile.Sadly , i can’t display both my cats as the female “Matahari” is recovering from a abscess while the male “Matata” is a miniature leopard, wild and afraid of strangers.I have posted a photo of the cat on a leash at the show.

    1. Looks great. Nice photo too. I’d like to do a write up about this if I may. I presume this is India’s second cat show. The first one was in Bangalore reported by you in April 2013.

      Thanks for reporting on this Rudolph. Do you have more photos?

    2. Dear Rudolph
      I see very much stress on this persian baby.

      1) look to the leash
      2) look at the cat’s face
      3) the leash is not loose
      4) the cat is not happy

      Whiskas is a cat food company and these companies sell their products by conducting different shows in such names “Cat shows” and alike. This does not mean that people are aware of cats and kittens and theyare willing to adopt as many as the Indian population.

      The same MEO-Cat food company here in Pakistan show up with these kind of shows and the basic purpose is the ADVERTISEMENT of their own MEO products. Many of business men (who I call big ANAKONDAS of business world), they join in the cause and also invest in MEO-CAT Co. to boost their own interests in business.

      My friend! If cat love is spread in INDIA and in PAKISTAN right in this way. . . . My question; why I see CRUELTY with cats and kittens in both the states. The LAW clearly indicates that these animals are the property of the state, and the ground realities are crying out with complaints that;
      “LAW is only for the record of book in India and Pakistan, not to be regulated practically.”

      I know many friends will oppose me what I have gone deep into these issues because I have been a press person for five years in my life and 8 years I have served the secret service.

      I only know what is TRUTH and don’t appreciate these kind of business promoting shows who only improve the sales promotion aspect and not the welfare of cats 🙁

      Lets see when the EAST which is BEAST is gonna change >>>> 🙁 lets see

      1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

        Ahsan I have hated Cat Shows since having to accompany the duty vet to them when I first started vet nursing. It upset me deeply to see cats in cages, they sat there for hours after being primped for showing, They had to endure a strange vet examining them and strangers gawping at them. Some cats were very unhappy.
        Cats don’t want fame and glory, it’s the owners who want that for themselves, I think it’s wrong and have fallen out with people over this. I also hate seeing cats on a leash, they are not dogs, they don’t want to be dogs and no one should force them to do what they don’t want to do. My heart aches for the Persian in the photo. As you say it’s all about the sponsoring firms making money, as usual!

        1. Yes I agree I refuse to Put my Cats in Cat Show. Mum Suggested it Once to me. Especially with Rebel & Smokey. I just dont want to put them though anything like that. I just want the Cats to be Cats in their own Environments. Also I think it does more Harm.

      2. Ahsan, you said it all.
        Sorry, Harvey, but cat shows hurt my heart the same as seeing a small child forced onto a stage by a parent demanding she perform.
        Cats should be cats, dogs should be dogs, children should be children, and Ruths should be Ruths. LOL!

        1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

          lol and Dees should be Dees and we’d not want you any other way.
          We let people be people, so why not let cats be cats, I love every inch of them and their wild ancestry instincts and if I was a cat I’d lash out at anyone who tried to train me 😉

        2. Exactly I’m With you Dee and Ruth. I know its lovely to look at Cats. I just think its so wrong. The Cats would be really unhappy and Anxious.

  6. Thanks for the short article, Michael.

    I disagree with Dr. Bradshaw. I don’t know why he has forgotten the basics.

    And the Basic is;


    I can’t understand why we as a whole want to merge one species with another 🙁

    Both needs rewards but the nature of both animals are different. Even in WILD and even in house(as pet).

    We can train a cat better as a dog (example of circus cats, I really mean those domestic cats not lions/chetas.

    Many owners fail to train a dog. I have an example. My neighbor boy saw me with feral cats. I had Laila and three of her litter mates. My neighbor boy let me call him Mr.A, he requested his dad to have a dog.

    His dad allowed him a black Labrador puppy. He kept him on the third floor. That Puppy was never vaccinated and I don’t know what that young boy Mr.A done to him that after 6 months, they have just got rid of that dog. That dog started to bite everyone even Mr. A was afraid and I personally know that LABs are best labor dogs and known as best sincere dogs for their owners, if groomed/trained well.

    But! on the other hand, my LAILA can understand what I say, I know what she wants. We are both (even the whole family) satisfied with cats and their behavior.


    I don’t like irresponsible owners.

    They must think before adopting any animal species, this is what I say and have sufficient knowledge so that they don’t play with any innocent pet’s LIFE. The early stages of animal life or human kids are the most important. and if we elders or mature people start to ignore the fundamental training to any species, Its right then, the animal/human who so ever can become WILD.

    Thank you 🙂

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