Cat on exercise wheel.

Training Your Cat

Cats are naturally active and need plenty of stimulation to ensure both mental and physical well-being. Teaching your cat good behavior and playing games are positive ways of interacting with your cat.

Kind, effective training involves setting up house rules, rewarding “good” behavior, and ignoring “bad” behavior. This in turn will make it easier for you to control and manage your pet.

Anything for Food

Cats are happy to learn if there is an edible reward. Unlike dogs, cats do not respond to discipline. Simply calling to your cat will not teach him to sit or come to you, but a tasty titbit—such as a dried chicken treat or a dehydrated shrimp—and lots of gentle praise will help.

Cats learn best when hungry, so try training just before meals. Break treats into small portions—too many too soon and your cat will stop feeling hungry and lose interest.

Cats learn best from about four months old. Young kittens lack concentration; old cats are generally not interested. Active shorthaired cats, such as Siamese, are generally easier to train than other breeds.

Name Training

Your cat cannot be trained unless he has a name—preferably a short name of one or two syllables that he will find easy to recognize and respond to. If you’ve adopted an adult cat, it’s best not to change his name, even if you dislike it.

Training sessions should last for one or two minutes, never much longer, and preferably in a quiet room free of distractions. To get a cat to come to you, call him by his name while tempting him with a treat. As he approaches, take a step back and say “Come.”

When he has walked up to you, give the treat immediately and praise him. Repeat this, increasing the distance each time until he will run to you from another room on hearing your command. If you then phase out the treats, he should still respond to your call.

Once your cat has learned to come when called, you can try training him to meow on cue. Hold a treat in your hand and call to him, but withhold the treat until he meows—even if he tries to swipe the morsel from your hand.

As soon as he meows, say his name and at the same time hand over the treat. Practice both with and without giving a treat to reinforce the behavior, until your cat always meows at the sound of his name.

Clicker Training

If you want to teach your cat some basic tricks—for example, going into his carrier— clicker training is very effective. A clicker is a small device with a metal tab that clicks when pressed.

By clicking when your cat is doing the “right” thing, and immediately offering him a treat, you can train him to associate a click with something good and to perform the desired behavior on request.

Realistic Expectations

Domestic life can frustrate a cat’s natural predatory instincts. Cats are motivated to hunt, climb, jump, and scratch, so be prepared to accept these as normal behavior. However, if you find any of these problematic, try to provide safe and acceptable alternatives, such as interactive toys or a scratching post.

Never punish your cat or forcibly restrain him from behaving naturally, but use physical barriers if there is a risk he might harm himself or damage property.