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I will be a Pet Me Cat at the San Diego Cat Show this weekend… and I am also going to be part of a presentation! My human was asked to do a talk, and the topic wound up being about training cats. The most important part of training a cat, she thinks, is building a great relationship with your cat. That’s both an aid and a goal. But there are technical things humans should know when working with their cats, and clicker training is one of them. I will be honest and tell you I was not clicker trained! My human just sort of worked with me off the cuff, and we’ve had lots of fun doing it. But she felt that if she was going to talk about cat training, we should discuss it. So here I am getting a remedial clicker training lesson.
My human has a couple of clickers, but she likes this Terry Ryan Clik Stik. Besides the clicker, it also has a retractable pointer (more on that later). You will have to excuse this photo, with it upside down. This was the last shot of the day and we were “losing light,” so there wasn’t time for a redo. She got this one at an Acro-Cats show, but you can also get the Clik Stik on Amazon.
You’re supposed to use a clicker is so the cat associates the click noise with the treats (reward) when she does a specific action. You can add in hand signals and voice commands later.
Here is how you begin your first session. Be with your cat somewhere quiet where there are no distractions. (Outside is actually not a good idea — there are loads of distractions!) Make sure you have some high value treats handy. That means whatever she really, really likes — for me it is freeze dried chicken. While she is just sitting there quietly, click the clicker and immediately afterwards give her a treat.
She should only get treats when she is being calm. If she gets grabby, like I am here, let her settle down, then click the clicker and give her another treat. After a while, she’ll learn that sitting quietly will earn her a treat. Voila — your cat just learned to Stay!
The training sessions should be brief, like only 3 minutes long, and you can do them a couple or three times a day. We kitties have short attention spans. Have about 10 treats, or pieces of treats handy. My human uses itty bitty bits of treats. Another idea is to use wet food or ground meat on the back of a spoon — that way your cat learns to be gentle when taking treats from your hand. When I’m doing tricks for other people, my human has them hold the treat reward in the palm of their hand so I don’t accidentally bite (although I’m actually very gentle).
Once your cat gets the hang of the clicker, you can use a pointer to direct action. You get her used to the pointer by letting her touch noses with it, then clicking and giving a treat. Once she realizes she gets a treat by touching the pointer, you can start leading her around, clicking and giving rewards. The really big, important tricks — and two of the best reasons to use clicker training — are teaching your cat to come when called and to go into her carrier. Wouldn’t it be great if your cat could do that in an emergency, like if you had to evacuate with little warning?
So this is why, even though clicker training should always be fun, this is serious business! Kitties, don’t let your human goof off like mine is here. Keep your human on track. Besides, we cats get bored easily, and you want our attention for the minutes you are doing these sessions.
My human found some other uses for the pointer too. When I have my bell in front of me, I sometimes will keep ringing it when she doesn’t want me to, or when she wants me to do another trick. If she tells me to Stay and I start reaching for the bell, she puts the pointer in front of me. That way, I keep my paws on the ground.
My human also got a fun idea for a new trick. She says, “Give me paw!” and I drape my paw over the pointer. Then she clicks it and gives me a treat. I started getting the hang of it in just one session… but I’m pretty used to learning tricks now!
I hope you liked my introduction to clicker training!
Catherine Lingg says
I’ve never used a clicker Summer. I just used voice commands and also obviously treats. This was very informative
I bet Nutmeh would enjoy this. She is highly malleable!
LESLEY CASTLE says
This is very helpful information, Summer. Thank you!
Lesley Castle says
You are soooo smart Summer!
What a wonderful article! I am going to start training Marv (when this development push is over). We already have a regular “play time” when I come home from work and I figure I can add some training to the beginning.
I had not thought of clicker training. Now I shall.
Scylla, Fenris, Tuiren, YinYang & Chimera (ATCAD) says
Once upon a time Mommy had Socks, Scylla and Charybdis trained to sit in a semi-circle and sit for treats. One day Fenris joined them, Mommy thought it was so cute. She really wishes someone had been here to record it.
The kittens are weird they don’t like treats.
Oh Summer , mew’re just so cute in all your pics today, mew really brightened up our Friday!
Thanks for joining in The Pet Parade!
Basil & Co xox
What a smart kitty you are. And your human gets points for having the patience to teach you so much.
Fraidy Cats! says
great post, Summer! our mom did a lot of clicker training with Wriggley and some with us. She says the click stick is really handy.
pip, minnie, hollie, sharpie, ditto, TL
The Florida Furkids says
Ut oh….Mom says she’s going to find our clicker….guess that means more treats for us, right?
The Florida Furkids
William's Kith & Kin says
We would want to use the clicker to train our mom. 🙂
Melissa & Mudpie says
This is great, Summer! You do such a great job showing people that kitties can do anything!
Memories of Eric and Flynn says
You are a very quick learner, Summer. I hope you have a lovely time at the show this weekend.
THANK YOU SUMMER — would you come train my cat? You do such a pawsome job!
Madi and Mom says
Summer that clicker would sound too much like a cricket. All I do is stalk crickets and yell for mom to come quickly.
That pointer would make a great stick for playing limbo
Hugs madi your bfff
Eastside Cats says
I purchased a clicker, to work with Manny and Chili Bruce, but I lost my nerve because I wasn’t sure when to click, etc. Summer, this is SO HELPFUL! I’m going to start this weekend, for sure! Actually, Angel is going to get trained too; I think it may help all three of them get along together…someday.
Eastside Cats says
Shared on my FB page!
Purrjamm Cats says
Mom bought a clicker training program from the Acrocats. Her goal is to find out which of us wants to learn how to use it. With there being 6 of us it’s kinda hard to try and focus on any one cat. We run the house! Mom says we are like teenagers, acting crazy. You have given her hope though. Purrs
That is a really excellent article. I like the idea of clicker training – for fun, but especially for emergencies. My one kitty really hates loud noises and I’m afraid in an emergency, she’d run & hide instead of being where I can put her into the carrier with her sister for evacuation.
Seville at Nerissa's Life says
Hmmm… Clicker trainin’, huh? HMMM… You sure this isn’t a way for cats to train peeps to give ’em more treats? ‘Cause if it is, I’M IN. MOUSES!
And to think, all this time I thought we were teaching the humans tricks.
Judith Daly says
I have used clicker training extensively with our horses, and it is fantastic. I had to use it when I got Dumb Dog just so she could be manageable. I have used it with my cat, Thunder quite a bit in the early days, but now with Dumb Dog trying to join us, she just ruins everything. We do it now and then to review his tricks, and he really enjoys it, but we don’t do it often. The disadvantage with cats, compared to dogs and horses, is that their stomachs get filled with treats too fast and the sessions have to be short–and they are so easily distracted by dogs.
If I put the dog outside or in another room, she hears the clicks and barks. Sigh…
When the Cat is Away says
Starting clicker training was my New Year’s Resolution for 2017. And I did it – every day. We have so much fun, actually all of us. I admit that I don’t really enjoy playing with string toys, I do it for them, but clicker training is sth we all enjoy.
I’ve two cats. In the beginning, it was a bit difficult to coordinate, but we’ve now worked out a routine. I clicker train in the bedroom. I first go with Kajsa, while Tessa is waiting outside. When Kajsa’s done, she goes out (voluntarily) and Tessa comes in. Tessa knows that she has to wait for her turn, and vice versa. In the beginning, there was some scratching at the door, but it worked out fine after a while.
I don’t use a clicker though. I always forget things in some room, and it felt also like I needed a second hand. I figured if I did special sounds with my mouth it’d work, too. And it does! Words don’t maybe work, at least in the beginning, but a special form of whistling which I only do during clicker training works for us. Both cats have their own sound.
Ellen Pilch says
You are such a clever kitty . I think it is funny that you like to keep ringing the bell 🙂
The Poupounette Gang says
You are so very clever, Summer! We are sure you will be a huge hit at the show.
i think theo would be willing to learn anything if it meant getting treats. clicker training is obviously below Diego-san. I’m not sure how Thompson would respond.
Random Felines says
mom wants to start working on this with Chanel. she has an app on her phone…now to find a quiet place to practice. hahaha
The Island Cats says
You’re so good, Summer. The mom says we’re untrainable. Pfffft!
Great advice Summer. Not sure any of us really want to be trained.
Brian Frum says
That was wonderful pretty Summer and you are your human are such a great team!
Katie Isabella says
Summer, that “Oh Come on” picture is so appropriately captioned with your secret thoughts! Ad I enjoyed learning about clicker training. I understand it works on we kitties!
Mickey's Musings says
You are the purrfect kitty to show us about clicker training.
We bet it is easier when a kitty is young.
Treats are a great motivator 😉
Purrs Georgia,Julie and JJ
Summer Samba says
Binga (and Boodie) would have trouble with clicker training because they are hard of hearing! But Binga has actually learned walking on a leash and giving High Fives by watching me!
The kitties of PURRING pines says
You are so patient Summer. Weâ€™re all about treats here….