How to teach your cat fun tricks
Teach hive five while learning how to teach any trick you can think up. Lots of text, but please read every step, it's important to understand rather than just follow the motions. :)
Meet the stars :) 🐈 We're going to train a "high five", on the way learning how to teach any trick or behavior in future. NOTE: Wear headphones so your cat can't hear the clicks in this guide!
Click ALWAYS means a treat is coming. Even if you clicked by accident.
During clicker sessions, keep petting/touching/ speaking to a minimum. Let your cat make his own choices, let the gears in his head turn without distraction. Do not stop him from leaving, either.
Start with a happy, eager cat, and delicious treats. I used chunks of premium cat food. Little bits of plain cooked chicken would've been less messy and easier to portion out though..
At no point will we be physically manipulating the cat's paw into a high five. That only teaches him to tolerate you messing with his paw, it doesn't show him what to do!
Sit down and guard the treats :)
Note: I didn't have a clicker when I filmed this, so I just simulated the noise with my mouth. If you do this consistently (don't use the noise for anything else!) you won't need to buy a clicker.
Trick example based on previous video: once he is reliably turning, say "spin" just before twirling your finger. Gradually fade away the finger cue, and "spin" will be the new cue for the trick :)
Note: Cue, NOT command! A command is a veiled threat- "do this, or else!" A cue is a voluntary invite. If your cat decides not to participate, do not pester him! That'll make him dislike training.
Don't say "spin" ten times in a row- he is not deaf! Say it clearly once, and if he doesn't spin, there's no treat. Try again later, get tastier treats, or go back to pairing it with the finger cue.
You might succeed in one session, or it might happen in incremental baby steps. Don't stress, make sure he is getting clicks often enough so he does not lose interest.
When he's expecting a click but you're holding out for more, (lifting paw higher, or whatever behavior you're shaping) don't push your luck too much. Let him succeed, make it easy, not frustrating.
"clicker-wise" cats know: if at first you don't succeed, try something a bit different & don't give up; it's a guessing game. But at first, raise criteria slowly. It's good to end sessions on a high.
Like if he's made good progress, you can surprise him by giving him the rest of the treats for one click. That's a great way to end a session :)
Once he's got it you can gradually raise the criteria again - only click for ever more perfect high fives. You can do that over the next few days as this is already a lot for one session.
If this happens, offer the cue (in this case the hand) but don't shove it in his face. He knows it's there, he's choosing to ignore it. Waving it around excessively will not change that.
He may just be tired or full, that's fine. Or he gave up because you were making it too difficult. Or he'd prefer different treats. Either way, pack away your things and resume tomorrow.
Cat tripping you in the kitchen? Add the criteria "sitting quietly/not annoying the humans" before you even give the cue for the pre-food trick. No leg weaving in kitchen -> cue -> trick -> food!
This also works wonders for other things, like begging during dinner. Instead of scolding, teach an alternative. You'll love it because you're not annoyed, he'll love it because he's getting food :)
Once a trick is learned & well practiced, you can skip the click and go right from trick to treat, if you like. Still, it's good to reinforce the click now and then :)
Also, no clicking in hindsight. If you missed it, don't click after he's done it, just skip to the treat. The click is for marking *current* behavior.
Keep a few treats ready in the fridge so you can capture behavior throughout the day. Just sitting on his bed or using his scratching post, to that spectacular backflip while playing- click it!
With a little thought and creativity, this technique can be used for any trick. It's not "just" a fun circus act, it improves your relationship and it can be used to solve real problems :)
You can surely also adapt this to teach a hand/paw-shake, but we didn't have time for that today.
Q: What about the black one? A: He was content to hang back and get a treat for being patient from time to time.
As you can see, don't be surprised if he reverts to using his paw. I've never really been scratched doing this, but proceed at your own risk.
- Delicious tiny treats
- Cat who wants those treats
- 10 minutes a day
- No distractions!