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Cat Training: How to Teach Your Cat to Sit in Four Steps

Who says dog owners should get all the attention? Follow our directions and your cat will be sitting pretty, on command!

 |  Jul 17th 2012  |   2 Contributions


Shortly after a friend got a new puppy, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes every time someone would comment on how smart the dog was to sit, shake a paw, and lie down on command. I watched the dog closely and noticed he went through the whole routine of sitting, shaking a paw, and lying down as soon as a treat appeared. There wasn’t any correlation to the commands being said. 

It got me thinking that my cat could just as easily be taught to sit and do tricks. I just needed to find the right form of bribery and be able to communicate in a way that my cat would understand and pay attention to. With Furball’s love of food, it took less than a couple of weeks to teach him how to sit. 

Small British kitten by Shutterstock.com.

Here’s how you can train your cat so that they’ll receive the adoring accolades and admiration that they deserve. 

Step 1: Know What Your Cat Loves

Unlike dogs, cats don’t do tricks for the joy of pleasing you. You’ve got to bribe them, and you better offer something really good. Furball must have been a Japanese cat in a past life, because he’ll do anything for dried seaweed and Citikitty’s Bonito Flakes.

What special snack gets your cat licking her lips? If there’s a treat that your cat is wild about, save it for training purposes and only give it to her when you’re teaching her how to sit.

Step 2: Work With Your Cat’s Natural Behavior

Instead of trying to push your cat’s butt down to teach him to sit, pay attention to when he naturally sits down. Most cats will look up at you if you’re standing in front of them. And, if you’re holding something near and dear to their stomachs, they’ll want front row seats. 

Tabby sitting by Shutterstock.com.
Walk up to your cat while holding a treat at your waist level. It should be low enough that your cat can get super-excited about it, but high enough that they won’t try to jump up to reach it. Hold the treat over your cat’s head so that your cat has to crane its neck up and sit down to get a better look. Presto! Your cat is sitting.

Step 3: Don’t Just Say It, Gesture It!

As soon as your cat sits down, say “sit” very clearly and loudly, but in a nice cat-friendly way. Remember, you’re not an Army sergeant and kitty isn’t on duty. You don’t want to startle your cat, because you want to keep the learning experience fun and positive.

As a cat lover, you may have noticed that cats don’t seem to pick up on human words as quickly as dogs (or maybe they’re just better at ignoring us). Therefore, simply saying “sit” isn’t enough. You’ll need to add some emphasis.  

Since your cat will be watching the treat very intently, include a large hand gesture when you issue the sit command. I like to hold both of my hands together in front of me as if I were about to bounce a basketball. As soon as Furball sits, I move my hands down a few inches so that he can see the motion and I very clearly say, “Sit.”

Three kittens by Shutterstock.com.

Step 4: Repeat Until You Get to Show Off Your Cat

Practice this once or twice a day. It’s important not to overdo it as cats learn at their own pace, and if you try to hurry the learning process, you’ll just freak out your cat. Your patience and gentle persistence will soon be rewarded when your cat associates the hand gesture and the sit command with sitting down. 

Once your cat does this a few times, you can then practice without offering the treat first. Be sure to always give your cat the treat after she sits down, though. You need to keep kitty motivated.

Your cat is now ready for her debut to impress your pet-loving friends and family. Yes, you can teach a cat to sit! 

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