How to Train a Cat: What Your Cats Can Learn and How to Teach Them

how to train a cat

One of the most commonly asked questions by new cat owners is “cat cats be trained?” According to experts at the Humane Society and our experience, cats can indeed be trained. Like most animals, the easiest way to train them is to shower them in positive reinforcement.

We’ll help you learn exactly how to train a cat, show you the best cat training tools, teach you how to train a cat to use a litter box, and even how to leash train a cat. If you want a more well behaved cat then you’re in the right place!

Can Cats Be Trained?

The short answer to the question “can cats be trained” is yes, they can be trained. However, they generally won’t learn tricks in the same way dogs will. Let’s start by covering the basics of the best way to train a cat: positive reinforcement.

Kid Training Cat

  • Reward behaviors you like. If your cat does something you like, reward them. This will teach them to repeat this desired behavior.
  • Use rewards to encourage new behavior. For example, call your cat’s name repeatedly. When they finally get to you, give them a treat. Move to another spot and do it again. They’ll eventually realize that when you say their name and they come to you, they get a reward. (Related article: How to Teach a Cat Its Name)
  • Understand the right motivators. It’s great to praise a cat but let’s be realistic: your cat wants food. Find kitty treats they love and use them as rewards.
  • Reward right away. If your cat does something you like and you don’t reward them until ten minutes later, they won’t know what they’re being rewarded for.
  • Get everyone on board. Everyone in your home should follow the same training ideals. Consistency is key to training a cat.

Just Cat Things

  • Eventually you can swap out the treats. Of course, you won’t give your cat treats for the rest of their life. Once they start doing what you’re training them to do, slowly start replacing some treats with praise. Reduce the frequency of treats until eventually they only get praise.

How to Train a Cat: Things to Avoid

While it’s important to know how to train your cat with positive reinforcement, it’s equally important to know what to avoid. These three things should be avoided if you want to train your cat for good:

  1. If you come home from work and your cat is purring on the couch next to a vase they broke and you punish your cat, they’ll think they’re being punished for purring on the couch. They will not associate it with a past behavior – only with the behavior they’re exhibiting in that moment.
  2. Don’t force your cat. For example, if you’re trying to train your cat to use the litter box, it won’t be effective to pick them up, take them to the box, and then reward them. They won’t understand what they’re being rewarded for.
  3. Don’t make your cat a beggar. Treats should only be used for training. If you give them to your cat every time they’re pawing at you, then they’ll learn that pawing at you = treats and will paw you constantly.

Cat Training Tools That May Make Your Job Easier

There are a number of cat training tools on the market that may be of great benefit to you as you work on training your cat. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular choices.

Cat Training Sprays

If you’re simply trying to train your cat away from things then a cat training spray may be a good choice.

Repellent for Dogs and Cats

For example, owners use it on cords, window shades, and other items they don’t want their cats chewing. The spray is non-toxic but doesn’t taste good to the cats so they’ll soon stop chewing.

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Cat Training Collar

There are several types of cat training collars. Some give a cat a gentle shock when they go outside of their approved area. For example, if you want your cat to go outdoors but you don’t want them to run off, you can create a perimeter and if they go out of it, they’ll get a gentle shock.

Another type of cat training collar has a remote control that allows you to give them a gentle shock. This is used for scratching, biting, and any other negative behavior you don’t like. Simply give them a very mild shock and they’ll quickly associated the behavior as a bad behavior.

Cute Wided Eyed Kitten Looking at the Camera

Finally, there is a type of cat training collar that actually soothes cats. This is used for cats that bite out of fear or are otherwise anxious. It contains pheromones that naturally soothe a cat. They wear it for up to thirty days and their anxiety and fear could be significantly reduced.

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Clicker Training for Cats

Clicker training for cats is pretty simple. You buy a small clicker, which is just what it sounds like – a device that makes a clicking sound when you press down on it. To get started, click the clicker and give your cat a treat. Do this a few times so that the cat immediately understands that clicking = treats.

The first thing to teach them should be an easy trick. Try the simple stick trick. You’ll need the following:

  • A clicker
  • Treats
  • A stick

To begin with, have the stick close to your cat, just a few inches from them. Then click and treat any time they move even a little bit toward the stick, even if they just glance at the stick. Do this over and over again. Soon your cat won’t go near the stick out of curiosity but to get their treat.

Cat Can be Trained in Numerous Methods

After your cat has learned to move toward the stick to get their food, stop rewarding that behavior. This forces them to try a little harder and modify their behavior to get the treat. Once the cat has moved it up to the next level, name the trick. Say “touch” or “target” every time they touch it and then give them a treat.

Once you’ve mastered this simple first trick via clicker training for cats, you can move on to any number of other tricks in the same way. However, there are five rules you should always keep in mind when you’re training them this way:

  1. Be patient. Different cats learn at different speeds.
  2. Don’t punish your cat. The whole point of this training is to teach by positive reinforcement.
  3. Keep your sessions short. Your cat is likely to get bored or distracted easily. You want to keep these sessions as fun as possible.
  4. Don’t get frustrated if your cat doesn’t seem to be interested. Just try it again later.
  5. Remember to have fun! Teaching your cat new tricks can be a great time if you let it be.

How to Train a Cat to Use The Litter Box

Many new pet owners wonder how to house train a cat. According to the ASPCA, about 10% of cats have issues learning to use a litter box. This simple guide and easy tips will help you learn how to train a cat to use the litter box.

Start With The Right Tools

First, you need litter pans. You’ll find endless options in colors and sizes but you need to be sure to buy a litter box that’s four inches deep at a minimum and is large enough that your cat can use it without being cramped. For multiple cats, get at least one pan per cat plus one extra.

Cute Cat just Relaxing in Her Box

Then you’ll need to choose the litter itself. You can buy cat litter made out of ground clay or other materials or you can simply use sand, wood shavings, or even shredded newspapers. Be sure to change the litter when it’s soiled and pay attention to any litter preferences your cat has.

Related: The Best Clumping Cat Litter

Filling Your Litter Box

Put your litter boxes in a spot that’s both out of the way but convenient enough that you’ll see it regularly enough that you’ll remember to clean it. Add just two inches of litter to the bottom. Adding more will likely lead to your cat scattering the excess all over your floors.

Training Your Cat to Use The Litter Box

Older cats likely just need to know where the litter pan is and they’ll use it. However, kittens may need more help. For the first few days, keep your kitten in just a room or two so they remember where the pan is and have easy access. Don’t move the pan too quickly or your cat may forget where it is.

Cat Potty Training Kit

In recent years, cat potty training kits have gotten very popular. These actually train your cat to use the toilet.

Bathroom Break

They start as a litter ring that completely covers your toilet. Once your cat is used to using it, you gradually remove rings until eventually your cat is simply squatting over your toilet and using the potty.

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How to Train a Cat To Sit In 6 Steps

If you’ve been wondering how to train a cat to sit, then we’ve got the guide you’ve been looking for! Just follow these six steps and your cat will be trained in no time.

  1. Get a quiet place alone with your cat away from disturbances, including kids and other pets.
  2. Get your cat’s attention by giving them a treat. Make sure they know you have more in your hand but don’t let them have any more it.
  3. Get your cat used to the word “sit”. Tell your cat to sit. Then wait a few seconds and give your cat a treat. Do this a few times. The purpose is to create a positive association between your cat and the word “sit”.
  4. Show your cat how to sit. Hold the treat up, say sit, and gently push your cat’s rear to the ground. Then give him a treat. Do this a few times so that your cat starts to realize what you want.
  5. Tell the cat to sit but don’t help him. If he sits, give him a treat. Note that it’s not likely on the first try. Instead, you’ll likely have to wait until he does it on his own. He eventually will and that’s when you give him a treat.
  6. Do it without the treat. Once he’s sat on command several times to get a treat, stop giving him treats. You still want to give praise but you should no longer give him a treat every time. You may want to give him a treat every third or fourth time until he’s happy to do it on his own.

How to Leash Train a Cat

If you want to take your cat outside then you’ll have to learn how to leash train a cat. Fortunately, it’s much easier than you might think. Here are some tips to make it even easier.

  • Use plenty of treats for good behavior but be sure to only train your cat when they’re hungry so they’ll be most receptive.
  • Get them used to their leash or harness at home where they feel safe. Only when they’re used to wearing it should you take them outside with it on.
  • Take small steps and expect there to be setbacks. Rare is the cat who goes out the first time and immediately loves it.

Leash Trained Cat

  • Try to start in quiet outdoors areas. Your cat may see traffic lights, other pets, and cars as threats and be terrified.
  • Don’t let your cat climb a tree when they’re on a leash. It’s actually very dangerous because they could get caught.
  • Setbacks don’t mean the end of it. It’s likely your cat will get better and then get worse. Just keep trying.

These simple tips on how to leash train a cat could have you and your feline friend heading out for nature walks in no time!