Can a cat be trained?
It’s really simple .. Dogs can be trained to do almost anything – simple tricks, police service, defence duties, and of course – lifetime service to people with special needs. As for cats, well .. they are too independent to do what humans want them to do .. right … wrong actually! As we create photographs of Melbourne’s cats, we meet a lot of owners and carers who love to talk about that newly mastered “trick”. But how easy is it to train our cats, and how far can we go?
Now we all have a hunch that “Positive re-inforcement” works wonders! From first-hand experience, I can say that from kittenhood to the golden-years; cat-treats are magic. So much so, that a temporary denial of treats after bad behaviour is a form of discipline that some find controversial, but it is surprisingly effective. This is because it doesn’t induce stress to our feline, just a little disappointment. Treats can be repeated, and repetitious rewards of a cuddle, and encouraging words will help to associate ‘good times’ with a particular behaviour.
For younger and middle-aged cats, softer food-items such as small amount of chicken or low-sodium tuna will do the trick. For mature cats on special-diets, more healthy treats such as dental biscuits or fish-oil supplements can seem indulgent to a cat that is on a bland but necessary diet that is low in protein.
The general consensus is that treats can be used to ‘train’ a cat to use a cat-flap, or encourage a mature moggie down the garden with the promise of a little something when they slowly wander down the garden.
Particularly with younger cats, the number of food-treats can be reduced by starting to use a ‘pet-clicker’ at exactly the same time a food-treat is offered. This clicker is best held in your other hand from the one offering the treat, and kept behind your back. In time, the number of food-treats can be reduced, as the clicker is used instead. This of course needs to be reinforced with kind words, a cuddle and a stroke. A gentle use of an old hair-brush around the cheeks and back often helps as well.
Clearly, circus tricks are really best left to the experts. I remember feeling amazed – and then a little uncomfortable; when I saw a carefully orchestrated one-cat circus perform in a Helsinki city square!
Too see some of the ‘cleverest’ Melbourne cats we have recently photographed, please have a look below:
For a detailed method of training your cat using the repetitive ‘clicker’ method, have a look at this article. I make no promises that it will work with you beloved feline though ;o)
Training – Cat Photography Melbourne