How to Train a Cat to Do 5 Life-Changing Things

Yes! You can train a cat to come on command, use a toilet, and more—and it's all much easier than you thought.

View as Slideshow

First things first: Never punish

First things first: Never punishPhoto by naezmi via Flickr (<a href="">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>)
Cats simply won't learn from what some owners would consider "discipline." Worse yet, "punishing" your cat can induce stress, leading to behavioral and health problems. Remember that training your cat requires patience and positive reinforcement.

Next: Get a clicker—and treats

Next: Get a clicker—and treatsPhoto via
Commonly used as training tools for a wide variety of animals, a clicker will set you back just a couple bucks and help you give positive reinforcement to your cat. (You can also use a regular pen with a clicky button—the important thing is to have a distinct noise you can make instantly.) Most training involves offering your cat a treat it likes following a click to mark the desired behavior. Without the clicker, your cat may be confused about why it's being rewarded: If it obeys a command, hears the click, and then gets a treat, it's more likely to catch on.

How to train a cat to... come on command

How to train a cat to... come on commandPhoto by GreyHobbit via Flickr (<a href="">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>)
Cats can learn to respond to a vocal cue and run your way. (The ASPCA notes that you might use this skill to bring your cat in should it dash out unexpectedly.) Start by making a distinct noise before feeding—before you open a bag or can—like vocally call your cat, or click your tongue. Your pet will learn to associate that noise with something positive (food) and will eventually head to you when it hears it. Then, encourage this behavior outside of normal feeding times. Start from short distances. Make the noise, use your clicker when your cat comes, and then reward your pet with the treat. Over time, call the cat from longer distances. The ASPCA recommends up to two "training sessions" a day, for five minutes or less, during which you should repeat the behavior up to 20 times.

How to train a cat to... use a toilet

How to train a cat to... use a toiletPhoto by -Mandie- via Flickr (<a href="">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>)
This one takes some work, but think of the benefits: You'll save on litter and enjoy a cleaner home. First, place a litter box adjacent to your toilet. Then gradually bring it closer and closer to the top of seat—you might need some phonebooks or a stool to make the process easier on the cat. Once your pet is accustomed to using a litter box on top of the toilet, transition to a special litter box that fits within the toilet itself. (Buy flushable litter, and expect spillover.) Gradually use less and less litter to get your cat accustomed to doing its business without it, and then, remove the litter box entirely.

Content continues below ad

How to train a cat to... shake hands

How to train a cat to... shake handsPhoto by ffar_farah via Flickr (<a href="">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>)
Simpler than you might expect: Get a treat ready, then align yourself to the same level as your cat. Tap your cat's paw while saying "shake," and use your clicker when it moves its paw. Repeat training until your cat offers its paw in response to the "shake" command without tapping. Like the "come on command" trick, this can take a few training sessions over the course of a couple of days.

How to train a cat to... beg

How to train a cat to... begPhoto by ehpien via Flickr (<a href="">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>)
This is similar to the "shake hands" trick. Hold a treat just above your cat's head and give a "beg" command. Your pet should stand on its hind legs and reach up for the snack; click to mark the behavior and then give your cat its treat. Practice until your cat begs on command without needing a treat dangled overhead. (Make sure you still reward your pet, of course.)

How to train a cat to... walk on a leash

How to train a cat to... walk on a leashPhoto by Niklas via Flickr (<a href="">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>)
Get a harness with a leash that attaches at the cat's back, not its neck. The ASPCA recommends that before putting it on you leave it out for a few days in areas where your cat goes, like its feeding area or favorite sleeping spot, so that the animal is accustomed to the sight of it. Next, you'll transition to draping the harness over the cat (without fully attaching it) when giving it a treat. You'll eventually move to securing the harness around the cat without the leash—leave it on your cat for a couple of minutes at first, then increase the time over the course of days. Once your pet is comfortable with the harness, attach the leash to it, and let your cat wander freely inside with it. After a few days, start holding the leash during training. Then: ease into the great outdoors! Make sure you let your cat take its time exploring a new area, and start somewhere quiet.

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.