How to Teach your Cat to Sit

Let’s get one thing straight. Cats thrive on positive reinforcement, and positive reinforcement only. The best way to reinforce positive behaviour is with clicker training. The way we train a cat is to communicate when the cat performs a desired behaviour, then provide a reward. The way we communicate with them is by using a clicker. A clicker is a small plastic device that makes a clicking sound when pressed. When the cat does the behaviour we desire we click the device then give them a treat. This is how they learn that they have done the right thing. A clicker can be purchased from most pet stores for under $5.00. Alternatively, some people click the top of a ball point pen or make a sound themselves. Personally I believe purchasing a clicker is the best and most effective option. I started with a clicker with my cat Willow, but nowadays I make a squeaking sound with my mouth. So let’s get started..

Charging the clicker

Charging (or loading) the clicker is how we get your cat to associate the clicking sound with receiving a reward. Sit down with your cat when they are relaxed and free from distraction. Click the clicker then toss them a treat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. You will know it’s working when you see your cat anticipate the treat when they hear the click. It may only take 10-20 clicks for it to work. If you’re cat loses interest or becomes tired give them a break or try again the next day. We can now use the clicker to communicate a desired behaviour.

Target Training

Next we need a stick, or even a chopstick will do, though something longer works best. This will be used as our target. Cats love to boop things with their noses. Hold the target out an inch in front of your cat. When they go in for the boop, click, then give a treat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat, whilst progressively moving the target further and further away. Soon, we will have a cat that will follow that target anywhere in anticipation of the treat. Get them to follow across the room, jump up and down from a chair, or even through a hoop!

Use the target

We have now laid the groundwork and are ready to get your cat to sit. Luckily, most cats by nature are sitting enthusiasts. In your next training session hold the target above their head, but don’t click if they boop it! They may appear confused when they realise the treats aren’t forthcoming. Eventually, they will sit and at that point we click and give them a treat. Now you guessed it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat! We now have a cat that knows to sit when the target is above their head.

Wow, look at that!

So, we have now:
  • Learnt to associate the clicker with a reward.
  • Then associated the target with the reward.
  • Used the target to perform a trick.
This is the basics of cat training with a clicker and positive reinforcement. We can now use this method to teach more advanced tricks such as turning around, shaking hands, and rolling over. Clicker training is a great way to spend quality time that strengthens the bond between you and your cat. The mental stimulation also has its own rewards as it can help to make your cat become more confident and reduce stress. Have you taught your cat to sit?
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