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Is It Possible to Train a Cat?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Many pet owners wonder if it is possible to train a cat beyond the basics of using a litter box and a car door. Much like cats themselves, the answer is widely varied and depends on the individual. Some cats take readily to learning tricks, while others will obstinately resist the introduction of any new skills. As in any type of pet training, the best way to train a cat is patiently, or success will never be achieved. In essence, cat training is about convincing a cat that it has decided to do something independently, rather than that it is obeying your commands.

For indoor cats, being toilet trained is crucial. Most cats will take readily to use of a litter box, because cats prefer to use designated areas when in nature. If a litter box is kept clean, cats will tend to use it in preference to houseplants or other less desirable locations. If a cat is not using the litter box, it may be a sign of a health or behavioral problem, and should be discussed with a veterinarian. You can also reduce the incidence of spraying by spaying or neutering your cat. If you do not have an area indoors for your cats to use, make sure that they know how to use a cat door or that they can clearly communicate a need to go out.

For advanced players, it is possible to toilet train a cat on a people toilet, although it is a more involved process. To train a cat to use a toilet, start with basic litter box training. Move the litter box into a bathroom and slowly start raising it to the level of the toilet, teaching the cat to jump up to use the bathroom. Then, take a bowl which will fit securely into the toilet and fill it with litter. Allow the cat to get used to this and slowly start reducing the amount of litter, ultimately replacing it with water so that the cat will be comfortable with crouching on the seat. Then, remove the training bowl and allow the cat to use the toilet normally. Some cats enjoy flushing the toilet, while others will leave their waste for you to flush.

Cats can also be taught to come when you call, or to a particular whistle, with the assistance of food. To train a cat to respond to a summons, make the noise every time you give cats treats so that the sound is linked with food, and eventually you will be able to call the cat without having to reward him or her with food every time. This reward method can also be used to train a cat not to jump up on the table or to avoid certain rooms in the house. It is a far more effective method of training than punishment, which should be avoided.

If the trainer has a great deal of patience, it is possible to train a cat to do other tricks such as fetching, rolling over, jumping through hoops, or performing basic logic tasks. Use verbal praise and food rewards while working patiently with the cat, clearly defining what you want and only rewarding the behavior that you want to encourage. With time, a cat may be taught to go through an obstacle course, fetch small household items, or solve simple puzzles. When you train a cat, be prepared for setbacks and obstinance, and work through them.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By laughlion56 — On Jan 31, 2014

It's pretty easy to train a cat using treats. I trained my cat to scratch certain items in my house and not others simply by squirting her with a water bottle when she scratched my furniture. Then I took her to a scratching post and took her paws in my hands and pressed them on the scratching post as if she was scratching it and gave her a treat. After a couple of tries she would scratch the post daily for treats. Now she scratches the post any time I say the word treat. This can be a really good way to stop your cat from scratching your furniture.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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