If you are starting the year with a new kitten, it’s important to get things off to a flying start with a good foundation of basic training. It’s never too early to start, and by putting in the time when your cat is young it should help you to avoid behaviour issues later in life.
Keep it positive
The best way to train a kitten is by using positive reinforcement, meaning giving your cat a reward for performing a desired action. When a reward is given consistently every time your kitten does something you ask, your kitten will make a positive association and be more likely to repeat the behaviour.
You should never punish your kitten as this will have the opposite effect of creating a negative association and is likely to lead to a fearful or untrusting pet.
Many people are still under the impression that cats cannot be trained. Cats are very intelligent and capable of learning what we want to teach them, but their motivation is not necessarily the same as that of dogs.
Importance of training
By training your kitten you’ll be setting them up for success in later life and helping them to cope in situations such as being transported to the vet or being handled. You can use treats as a distraction for things that could be uncomfortable, such as claw clipping, or as a lure to entice your kitten to a specific location or to get their attention. Cat training is not so much about ‘tricks’ – it’s more about learning how to live life as a pet.
Training is also a great opportunity to bond and it can be a fun way of interacting with your pet.
Teach your kitten to come when called
Having a cat that comes when called can be very useful, especially if it likes to hide or disappear when you want to get it in at night. It’s a good idea for cat owners to ‘check in’ with their pets at various times during the day as it prevents them from straying too far from home.
Before you start teaching your kitten to come when you call, you need to make sure that you have the right incentive. Arm yourself with a selection of especially tasty treats that are not available to your kitten at any other time.
- Choose a command word to use when you want your kitten to come. It’s best if this is something other than their name so that you only use it when you want them to come. ‘Come’ or ‘here’ works well.
- Choose a time when your cat is keen to interact with you to get the best results. A cat that’s in the middle of a nap is not likely to cooperate!
- Sit on the floor and say your kitten’s name to get its attention. Then use your command word and lure them towards you with the treat.
- Gradually increase the distance between you and your kitten before calling its name and giving the command until you are out of sight. Eventually you should be able to recall them from anywhere in the house.
- Once you have mastered this indoors you can try doing the same thing outdoors. It is a good idea to call your cat from outside periodically just to give them a treat and let them go back outside. If you immediately keep them indoors after they’ve been good in responding to your command, they could form a negative association. You will then have a challenge enticing them home in future. If however you could just be calling them to offer a tasty treat, they may decide to stay within earshot of the back door just in case.
It's never too late
It’s not just kittens that can be trained as cats are never too old to learn. By combining a cat’s natural curiosity with the right incentive – plus a lot of patience and consistency – there’s no reason why you couldn’t teach an old cat a thing or two.
If you enjoyed this, you may be interested in: