Training 101 for Felines

Dogs are pack animals and they crave the hierarchy of the supremely social world that is dog. Canines know who’s the boss, and the idea is to serve the boss, be close to the boss, and try to take the steps necessary to move up in the pack to be “next in command.” Dogs view you as leader of the pack and they respect and love you for it. Loyalty, devotion, and a sense of comfort are derived from this pack mentality and order. This is why a dog follows you from room to room and is always near you, they are waiting for the pack orders (and because they love you and can’t imagine a minute without you). Dogs will fight for the pack leadership if the leader, for any reason, falls.

Cat’s are polar opposites, they are solitary animals. They enjoy the company of others, sometimes, but can live individual sequestered lives just as easily. Cat’s are solitary hunters, social chameleons who adapt to any living situation, but can take or leave the group home life. Cat’s don’t conform to “leader of the pack” mentality, mostly because they don’t care… they take care of #1.

Even with the “me first” attitude, a cat could find a bonded buddy in a group cat home setting. You’ll see certain cats always hanging, sleeping, eating, and playing with a certain other cat. However, they can take or leave this relationship in a New York minute.  You’ll also see “bully” cats who try to fight everyone and are not keen to hang out socially. This is normally a male attempting to declare his dominance on the brood. Cats that are spay/neutered tend to get along better in group settings and confirm to norms more easily. The need to battle for the females during mating season simply isn’t there.  A younger cat joining the mix could upset the group dynamic, as everyone scrambles to figure out the new social setting and this kitty’s place in the brood.

In the hierarchy, your cats will claim “territory” in your home. Higher is better, as “he who controls the high place rules the land.” Cat’s also mark things, including YOU, with their scent and building a stronger bond. This is designed to claim ownership and ward off competition… but it is also ignored, A LOT, as cats have territory wars. You’ll see them marking, remarking, and having marking wars for ownership and “claim” sleeping places, toys, other animals, and their owners. The “batting” battles, where the cats hammer each other with their claws and paws, is nothing more than a dust-up over territory of some kind.

To avoid the marking wars, consider the idea of “more is better.”  If you have multiple cats, you need multiple litter boxes. Battles in the feeding area, put out one more plate of food than there are cats. Even the most aggressive and territorial cat will come into line because there is no concern of running out of food if there are more plates than cats. Have more toys than you need, multiple scratching posts, lots of clear areas in high places where cats can always have the top spot.

Dog’s love praise, rewards, and attention. Cats… not so much… it’s all just a big bother that they would rather avoid. Cats want things on their terms, in their time frame, and in much smaller quantities. Your cat may lay next to you, touching you with pads and paws, but absolutely NOT want you to touch them. They consider that an unwanted invasion of their space and rather offensive. Your kitty wants to set the pace FOR the relationship, not be forced or “handled”.  By paying close attention to their body language (tails, twitches, ears, and fur) you can learn to read your cats mood and desires.  If you expect them to obey and conform to your rules… you’re likely going to be very unsatisfied with your feline friends.

Can I Train my Cat?

Sure you can, to an extent. In fact, cats can be trained to do all kinds of things like walking on a leash, not to play bite you or other cats, come on command, and even use the human toilet. Keep in mind that cats will only learn for their own gratification, not to please their owners (like dogs are dying to do).  Cat’s learn from repetition, and gratification… lots of treats need to be offered for a cat to learn.

Cat training is also not as “automatic” as most dog training is. Cats don’t necessarily want to spend the time with you, don’t want to hang within feet of you every minute of they day, and are contrary by nature. So they will lack the visible engagement and enthusiasm that your average dog will bring. However, when you show them the payoff at the end of lesson and they start to see the benefit of the lesson you’re teaching, they will come around and start to cooperate.  Consider dogs “toddlers” and cats “teenagers” in the realm of learning. Dogs love the attention and respond to positive moods, attitudes, and praise. Cats, not so much. They are actually dismissive of over the top excitement, excessive praise, and a bunch of physical attention. It’s all about the payoff at the end, the “carrot” better be worthwhile, and it’s all done on their terms. Make the rewards worth a cats effort or they will bail on you.

First things first. Make this adventure easier on both you and the cat by getting a “clicker”. Clicker training is an audible way to build routines and signal that good behavior equals a positive outcome (treats and praise). Click after the task or training is successful and immediately provide a treat. Remember, the clicker makes a noise, a startling noise… so be quick with the treats to form a pattern of acceptance and connection of cooperation=click=treat.

Our Friends at have a great list of tricks and routines your cat can learn. We’ve pick a few of the best to share with you here…

  • Gentle Ben

    Start with Super Simple training routine that sets the pace towards the more difficult tasks they will need to learn in future lessons. This training will teach your cat that Hands=Treats or rewards.

    What you’ll need is;

    1) a hand (you should have at least one, if not two)

    2) treat paste (any grocery, superstore, or pet store has a variety of pet treat pastes… yes they stink)

    3) patience (a virtual butt-load of patience that you will need during every training)

    This starting routine is very simple. You cat should learn that Hands=GENTLE=Treat. Start by placing a small amount of paste on the back of your hand. As the cat sniffs and approaches the treat, simply say “GENTLE”, and continue that command until they have finished the treat. Pull your hand away if the cat nips, bites, or grabs your hand… the start again. Once they understand the connection of Hand=Gentle=Treat, you can start using the Gentle command if they get to aggressive in playtime, grab your hand during petting or play, or if they nip at you. Gentle is easy, but it sets up the more difficult lessons we’re about to introduce to you.

  • Sit It or Quit It!

    Yep, you can teach your cat to “SIT” on command.  Start with simple praise and reward.  When your cat sits pretty in front of you on their own, click and give them a treat. In the early stages, only do this when they come over and just sit down. Keep your treats handy, the clicker where you can easily reach it, and then just wait. Once they wander over and sit down… go to work. Once they start to connect-the-dots that sitting & the click equal treats, they will come over and test out the routine. When you’ve reached this stage, add in the word “SIT” before the click and treat. Eventually, these things will all come together in their head. The final step is to lure the cat into sitting on your command. Try using a toy or a feather to get them in front of you and when they get in the “pretty kitty” sitting position, then reinforce your intention by pulling the feather, firmly saying “SIT” and, if they obey, click and hand out a treat.  Just a bit of patience, lots of treats, and determination to the task and you’ll have taught a cat to sit.

  • Oh Won’t you STAY!

    That’s right, once you get SIT… STAY is the next logical step.  Introduce them to a “Cat Mat”, which could be a special rug, or a plastic feeding mat, or a towel. You know how much cats like to investigate and “own” new things. When the cat steps on the Cat Mat, click… then toss a treat away from the mat. When the cat comes back to the mat, repeat. Once the routine of Mat=Treat has sunk in… add the word STAY before your toss the treat… but his time toss the treat ON the Cat Mat. If they wander off the mat, no treat. Suddenly, Sitting on the Mat=Click=Stay=Treat. Enforce STAY during meat preparation, to keep them off kitchen counters, or when you’re eating.  Your Cat Mat can travel with you to the vet’s office, a visit to your parents, on vacation. STAY is STAY regardless where it happens.

  • The Nice Man Cometh

    Are you sensing a pattern? Why scream “Fluffy… dinner time!” “Mr. Sniffles… time to come in!” “Chairman Meow… GET IN HERE!” When you could open the back door, shake a container of treats, and shout “COME!” and your cat streaks across your yard and into your house! This dream can come true. Much like the other steps, start easy. Put some treats in a cup with a lid, shake it and your cat’s curiosity will demand that they wander in to see what the noise is. Once in position, click the clicker, say “COME” firmly, pop the top and give the treat. The payoff is the GOLD here. Thats right, in the cats brain Noise=Clicker=COME=Treats and treats are the end game. Eventually you’ll eliminate the clicker and just Shake/COME/Reward with Treats.

  • Cut the Jive, Give me Five!

    A bit more challenging, but so much more rewarding to the teacher, is to give lessons in “Paw Bumps” or a “Kitty High Five” with your cat.  To make this awesome trick happen, start with the SIT command. Once the cat is in front of you and properly rewarded for SIT… Hold a treat in front of your cat in a closed hand. When the cat touches the hand, click, say “HIGH FIVE” open the hand and present the cat with the treat. As the cat learns that Present Hand=Click=High Five=Open Hand=Treat, they will cooperate and you can turn the closed hand into a traditional High Five hand position.

    This one can be hard for the cat to learn, or have a desire to learn because of he all the steps. Be diligent and consistent in the message. You might have to take additional steps to get this routine down. Try putting the treat under a sticky note that is in your palm, or put the treat under a small cup (like a plastic or paper 1oz cup). Once the cat uses their paw to move the paper or cup, you can click/HIGH FIVE/reward/praise. Eventually, they will learn the routine and you can turn your hand up into the right position for a proper High Five.

    What your teaching here is the mental connection to the clicker, command words, and ultimate payoff. After the lessons have sunk into the cats brain, you should be able to eliminate the clicker step. Commands=Actions=Treats is the actual lesson you’re teaching. The clicker is just a mental marker that you’ll use to set the stage.

Keep your training sessions short and targeted. Learn one lesson at a time in a session. Doing more will be confusing. Go no more than 5 to 7 minutes at a time, no more than two times a day. Keep it positive and loving, no matter the outcome of the session. Your cat will sense your mood and react to it. Don’t make this a chore, its a treat and fun. End your sessions with play, like chasing a feather or a laser pointer light. Throw them a toy or break out the catnip. Remember, you’re building connections in their brain… so Training=Playing=Fun is the end goal of each session.

Never shout, scream, spank, or discipline the animal. Cats are independent and headstrong, negativity is not something they accept, nor do they learn when scolding is the lesson.  Yelling at a cat for using your favorite chair as a scratching post may detour them, but it won’t stop them.  Cat’s just want to have fun… and to do things on their own terms… and to be left alone… and to be loved, but only when they want it.

Training a cat is a labor of love, a chore, and isn’t always easy. However, with enough determination, using the right methods, filling the sessions with lots of treats, and having an entire bucket of patience to pull from, you can make it a fun and worthwhile activity that is beneficial to feline and pet parents as well.

We hope you learned something new from this weeks Dog Blog and would urge you to take these lessons on a test run with your cat. If you do and have an experience, either positive or negative, we’d love to hear from you about the events. Drop us a line by emailing so we can check out the Big Brain on your Cat!

With the Heat Dome in place for awhile, our FreddieSez team wanted to remind all pet owners to “keep ‘em cool” by providing cool water (laced with ice cubes a couple times a day), air conditioned or shaded places to rest with moving cool air, and shorter play times. Keep them indoors as much as possible with limited outside exercise and potty breaks. Your pet might eat less, as the heat kills hunger. They may also sleep more, lay down in different than normal places like tile floors, simply because they are cooler. Limit the amount of car time and never leave them inside a car with the windows up, as cars can jump to over 120 degrees in minutes in weather this extreme. A cool pet is a safe pet!

Join us again next week for another Dog Blog session, as we tackle some pet related topic that will challenge your mind and skills as a fur kid parent. Till then we wish you cooler weather, a cold wet nose in your face, fun with the fur kids you love, and above all a simple and  beautiful walk with a furry friend in this Pet Friendly world… #FreddieSez

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