By Suzanne Denk, Animal Enrichment Specialist
Using a clicker can be a simple and effective way to teach your cat a trick or useful skill. A clicker is a small tool which makes a click sound – you can purchase one from any pet store or simply click a pen, your tongue or a metal bottle cap with the same result. Your cat will learn that a click means they are doing the right thing and a treat is coming. And, they’ll also learn that no click means try again.
Why use a clicker? A click results in a direct response from the cat and is a consistent communication tool. The cat can make the click happen with their actions, so clicker training is a cooperative activity and not just the following of a command. This helps to build a bond with the person and confidence in the cat. Clicker training results in rapid learning which occupies the cat’s body and mind.
Here is an easy way to get started …
Plan ahead and decide which hand will click and treat. Begin by clicking and providing a treat a few times so that the cat learns that a click means a treat is coming. Next, offer your hand to the cat and wait for the cat to reach out with their paw. Click as the cat touches your hand and quickly drop a treat for them with your other hand. The clicking is like taking a photo with your phone and the click should happen during the touch.
When the cat has reliably learned that touching the hand means a treat, you can start to raise your hand to create a high five!
To have successful training sessions, keep them short with only 5-10 clicks per session. Break up treats into tiny pieces so that many rewards can be given each session. Learn to recognize when your cat is getting stressed or confused and try to end on a positive note. If the cat’s success declines, return to the steps where the pet was successful.
By rewarding small steps toward your goal, you can teach a high five, a wave, sit, spin, go to a mat or enter a carrier in no time. You will find there is a lot of potential in your cat with just a click!