Although cats can learn anything dogs can, the secret to training cats is tailoring lessons to their specific learning style. Try these tips:
1. Find what motivates your cat. Food rewards must be something your cat goes crazy for. “Cats are more dainty eaters, and more discerning about what they eat,” says Terri A. Derr, DVM, founder of Veterinary Behavior Options. “If you experiment with things your cat likes to eat, you will certainly find something the cat will want.” Some cats might even be more motivated by a special toy or petting than food rewards.
2. Keep food rewards tiny. Offer teeny tastes when training. “A cat’s stomach is small, like a key lime,” Lisa Radosta, DVM says. “A couple of regular-sized cat treats can fill him up pretty fast, especially if he just visited his food bowl.”
3. Keep training sessions super short. Do many short sessions throughout the day (two to five minutes max). “Cats reach the point of just ‘being done’ faster than dogs do,” Dr. Derr says. “Training sessions should always be short and should always end when the training is going well. The most common mistake humans make is trying to do just one more repetition.”
4. Give the cat time to figure out what you want. “Give your kitty a chance to think, especially when you’re first teaching a behavior,” Dr. Radosta says. “Then, when they do what you want, reinforce them. It’s like you’re trying to get the kitty to think that it’s their choice, which it is really.”
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