How to Train Your Cat

Cats are known for their sass more than their obedience, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. That “take me as I am” attitude is part of what we love about them, but strengthening the human-cat bond is key to fostering a long and healthy relationship with your kitty.

Most cats can be trained to do some fun tricks, and with a deeper investment they can learn useful commands. The ability to come to you on command could save your cat’s life someday. Careful training can also eliminate destructive behaviors like scratching.

Spend some time getting to know your feline friend, and soon you’ll both be getting more out of the bond you share. Because cats were domesticated mainly as mice and rat catchers, they’re used to working alone. But your cat relies on you to give him or her the happiest and healthiest life you can.

Cats were originally domesticated for the sake of catching mice, so they’re evolved to work alone. Your cat relies on you to give them those few extra skills they need to bring them health and happiness.

Litter Box Training

The most basic step in every cat or kitten’s domestic training is to establish clear boundaries. This gives cats a safe and private space to call their own. Thanks to cats’ natural tidiness and waste-burying instincts, this is usually a quick and easy task.

  1. Provide a clean litterbox. In the same room, provide access to food and water, and give your cat lots of alone time.
  2. Place the results of any “outside the box” messes into the litter box.
  3. If after a few days this doesn’t work, place the cat in the litterbox after each meal and demonstrate how to scratch the litter with your finger.
  4. Make sure the box has never been used before (or is cleaned with baking soda), and try different litter brands until you find one your cat prefers.

Behavior Modification

In situations where your cat is behaving badly – at least according to human rules – you’ll need to get inside their head to understand their instincts in order to change the behaviour. The urge to claw, for example, is embedded in your cats’ mental wiring and trying to take it away entirely will be a non-starter. The best you can hope for in cases where the instincts run this deep is to redirect their need to scratch toward an alternative to your sofa, like a high-quality scratching post.


Love is second only to cat treats, and both will go a long way toward convincing your cat to be a more pleasant team player. Reinforcement is the way to go.

Not only is harsh punishment, like shouting and swatting, inhumane, it teaches your cat to fear you. That’s the last thing you want when trying to establish a healthy bond, and it could lead to your cat’s lashing out in revenge behaviours. Saying your cat’s name in an angry tone to stop bad behaviour, such as if they are getting too aggressive during playtime, may actually train them to run from you. Instead, make an abrupt noise by clapping your hands, then walk away to show that playtime is over – leave them wanting more, not freaked out.

Target Training

A valuable tool for new cat owners, target training encourages your cat to go toward an object. Present the item to your cat by holding it in front of him, and give him a treat when he sniffs or touches it. Repeat this step, gradually moving the target farther away. With practice, you can use this method to have your cat walk into a carrier or toward their bed on command.

Clicker Training

This is an easy and appealing method of cat training because it relies only on a quiet sound and positive reinforcement. Cats naturally want to repeat any action which earns them a positive experience and this is a simple way to utilize that desire.

A plastic clicker can be found at a pet store or substituted with a regular retractable pen. The sound of the clicker is easily understood by your cat because it’s more consistent than your voice can ever be. It’s also a distinctive noise they will generally only hear during training.



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