They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what about teaching an old cat – or cats in general – a few tricks? While some might scoff at the idea, the fact is with enough patience and persistence, your cat can learn to do tricks.
First, before you set out to train your cat, evaluate what their natural tendencies are so you can find a trick that will fall in line with their habits. Does your cat prefer to climb up high and leap around, or are they more likely to stay closer to the ground? By encouraging behaviors you already recognize in your pet, you can make the training process go more smoothly.
Also, recognize that cats don’t have the same instincts as dogs to collaborate with people, so training can be more difficult. You should also limit yourself to one trick at a time, and keep training sessions only 10 to 15 minutes long at a time. It will also take your cat more repetitions to remember a trick than it would take a dog, so patience is very important. You also want to have some of your cat’s favorite treats on hand to reward them for good behavior.
If your cat naturally likes to paw at things, teaching him or her to shake would be a good trick to practice. Place a treat in one hand and place the other hand near one of the front paws. As your cat raises his or her paw, say “Shake” and gently place their paw into your open hand. Say “Good shake” as you hand your cat a treat. Repeat this trick several more times, each time rewarding your cat with treats or praise.
If your cat is known for being agile and enjoys jumping or crawling in high spaces, consider teaching them to jump through hoops. While it sounds daunting, this can actually be easier than you think. Start by holding the hoop between you and your cat, extending a treat out in front of you. After your cat walks through the hoop (this might take a while for them to understand), reward them with the treat and ample praise. As your cat gets better with walking through the hoop, slowly raise it off the ground to challenge them further.
For cats that aren’t very motivated to do physical activity, a great trick to teach them would be to play dead. Sure, you could use their frequent cat naps and sleeping as their time to “play dead,” but with a little extra work you can train your cat to do more. Call your cat over to you and lure them over with a treat. Reward them with a treat and then get into position. Gently place your hand on your cat’s back and put your other hand next to his or her head.
With the hand that is next to your cat’s head, say “Bang” or “Play dead” and put your fingers into an L-shape with your thumb and forefinger. With the hand on your cat’s back, gently lower your cat down as you give them the command to play dead. After your cat is lying on the ground, release your hand and give them a treat. Continue with this until you no longer need to guide your cat onto the ground.
Burton Hohman is a writer for Natural Balance a pet food company that offers a variety of cat foods and treats.
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