Java’s trick show [video]

Java did a short trick show as a fundraiser for our school. She did really well considering that there was a mini horse, steer and dunk tank. She enjoyed all the attention.

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Cat training – the basics of clicker training cats

Those of you who have a cat and are interested in training him/her, this article is for you. I am going to go over the basics of clicker training your cat.

Many people say that cats are “untrainable”, but that is just not true. Cats are very intelligent and can learn tricks and behaviors, just like dogs (but may take a little longer to learn them depending on the cat.)









The benefits of training your cat

Training your cat gives her mental stimulation. It is a great way to keep your cat active. It also increases your bond with your cat and she will enjoy your company more because you have been paired with reinforcement. If I haven’t done a training session with Mollie in a while, when I finally do one, she is all over me for a few hours.




How to start – “Charge the clicker”

The first thing to do when beginning training with your cat, or any animal, is to charge the clicker – build meaning to it. By doing this, you teach your cat that the click means that a reward is coming. To charge the clicker, press and release the button on the clicker, then feed your cat a treat. Don’t present the food until after you have clicked, you want to make a clear connection between the click and the treat.

Click the clicker...

then feed a treat.












The clicker is used as a marker, you lure your cat up into a beg/sit pretty, you click when she comes up, then you give her a treat. Using a clicker gives you the ablity to be very precise in what you reinforce. For example, when teaching “High five”, you click the exact moment your cat touches her paw to your hand. If you click too early, you are just teaching your cat to paw towards your hand and if you click too late, the same thing will happen. Another example is teaching your cat a sustained target, you wouldn’t click as soon as she touches the object, you would click after she has been touching it for a while so she learns to hold it and wait for the click. Always click at the height of the behavior (when it’s at its best.)

Treats to use

All of our cats like different treats, so I can’t recommend a certain brand. Some cats are pickier than others, so just experiment with different treats to see what your cats likes the most. Here is a short list of possible treats that you could use:

– cheese

– lunch meat

– canned cat food

– kibble


Teaching eye contact

Eye contact is one of the most, if not the most, important thing to teach your cat. Teaching your cat to look at you teaches her to listen to and pay attention to you and takes some the focus off of the treats. To teach eye contact, wait for your cat to look at you, be patient. If she doesn’t look at you or seems bored, try making kissy sound, whistling or making a sound to get her attention. If this doesn’t work, try standing up and making the sound. It is okay if she doesn’t look right at your eyes on her first try. If she is having a hard time, click for her looking at you, then at your face, then at your eyes.






Wait for your cat to look at you

Click the instant that she looks at you, then feed her a treat.













Teaching the target stick

Teaching your kitty to touch her nose to the end of a target stick is helpful in many ways. You can teach so many tricks using the target stick, hold the stick just out of reach above your cat to get a sit pretty/beg or move it around in a circle for spin. You can also teach your cat to jump onto and off of objects by holding the stick where you want her to go.



To teach your cat to touch her nose to the target stick, hold it out in front of her and click her for smelling it. As she understands, hold the stick in different positions and move it as she follows it.

Hold the stick out to your cat

Click and treat when she touches her nose to it.

















Hold the stick up for a beg/sit pretty.












When to train

It is best to do training sessions when your cat is a little hungry. If you free-feed your cat, you can take her bowl of food away a few hours before you are going to do a training session, so she will be hungry, and then give it back after the training session. Don’t do training sessions when your cat wants to take a nap, instead, do it after a nap.


– Keep training sessions short (1-2 minutes) in the beginning, then you can go increase to about 5 minutes or more, depending on your cat’s attention span.

– Be patient. When I first started clicker training one of our cats, it took her about 3 training sessions to just learn what the click means. Be patient and keep it up, your cat will get it!

– Focus on just a couple tricks at once, in the beginning, so your cat has a chance to understand each one. If you have a whole bunch of tricks that you’re working on, you’ll either not get to practice them that often or make training sessions longer to try to include time for each trick. Once your cat learns the trick, move on to another.

– Don’t get stuck on the lure. I made this mistake with Mollie and I’m slowly teaching her the verbal cues now. If you are constantly holding a treat in your hand to lure your cat to do tricks, it makes teaching a verbal cue (and getting rid to the lure) much, much harder. Here are two different techniques for removing the lure.

  • Once your cat understands what you are asking, lure her without a treat in your hand, then feed from the other hand. Slowly decrease the amount of luring until you just make a small motion and your cat is offering the behavior on her own. Then, say the verbal cue just before she does the trick on her own. Jack pot (give her lots of treats and praise) when she does it.
  •  Lure her with a treat a couple times, then without a treat and feed from the other hand. Say the verbal cue, then lure your cat (without a treat in your hand). Eventually, your cat will make the connection between the verbal cue and her action and respond to the verbal cue. You can test how well she knows the verbal cue by saying it, waiting, and if she doesn’t do the behavior, you need to work on it more, since you have already said the verbal cue, lure her, click and treat.

– Start with simple behaviors first (sit, wave, shake, high five, beg, spin) and then work your way up to more complex behaviors.

– If you happened to have a cat that doesn’t care at all about food and just wants to love on you, you are not alone. 🙂 Socks is just like this. I am experimenting with using praise and attention for a reward for her. It has worked pretty well so far. If you’re interested, I have a movie of this on ClickerPetsMore.






















I hope that you found this helpful. Now go have fun training your kitty.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment. Thanks!

To see movies of our cats doing tricks or training sessions with them, click on the titles below:

Mollie’s 14 tricks

Mollie’s 4 tricks

Training sessions with Tulip and Socks

Training Session with Tulip

Cat tricks