First things first: Never punish
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—not something you want to deal with in cat training. Remember that patience and positive reinforcement are essential if you’re learning how to train a cat. Trying to figure out your cat’s behavior? Here are 17 things your cat would love to tell you.
Next: Get a clicker—and treats
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 when you’re learning how to train a 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 cat 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
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.) This step of how to train a cat starts 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 “cat training sessions” a day, for five minutes or less, during which you should repeat the behavior up to 20 times. If your cat loves boxes, there’s an actual reason why.